Saturday, April 19, 2008




We All Hate that 98!

[The catch is, that while it's true that the landlord can increase rents to whatever he or she wants once a property becomes vacant, the current rent-control law now ensures that the new tenants are still under rent-control for their, albeit higher, rent. Under the new law, there simply will be no rent control when the new tenant moves in so their much higher rent-rate can increase as much as the landlord chooses each year from then on!!! So, no more rent-control at all!!! Tricky, huh?...BW]

Prop 98, a statewide measure on the June 3 ballot will end rent control and just cause eviction protections for renters. San Francisco will see massive displacement and the city will change forever if 98 passes.

We’re steadily moving through the renter neighborhoods in the city getting the word out about Prop 98 through door to door literature deliveries. Our goal is to get 100,000 pieces delivered by election day—which is just a month and half from now.

Help us this week in one of the cities most strategically important neighborhoods—the Richmond (it’s a neighborhood with lots of frequent voters). If we get the word out, we’ll be able to pull lots of NO on 98 votes out of this neighborhood.

We’re meeting Saturday, April 19 at 11 AM at 558 8th Ave (between Anza & Balboa; the 38 Geary, 1 California, and 31 Balboa all go a block or so away). We’ll have coffee & bagels and then get NO on 98 literature and a precinct map showing where you’ll deliver it.

The Richmond is an easy neighborhood to do this—lots of small apartment buildings & level streets. It takes just a few hours and your few hours will get us as many as 1,000 votes. Bring a friend and it’s even more fun and easier and when you’re done you can explore the Richmond neighborhood (many restaurants and bookshops) or nearby Golden Gate Park.


"- Government may not set the price at which property owners sell or lease their property.

The provisions of this Act shall become effective on the day following the election ("effective date"); except that any statute, charter provision, ordinance, or regulation by a public agency enacted prior to January 1, 2007, that limits the price a rental property owner may charge a tenant to occupy a residential rental unit ("unit") or mobile home space ("space") may remain in effect as to such unit or space after the effective date for so long as, but only so long as, at least one of the tenants of such unit or space as of the effective date ("qualified tenant") continues to live in such unit or space as his or her principal place of residence. At such time as a unit or space no longer is used by any qualified tenant as his or her principal place of residence because, as to such unit or space, he or she has: (a) voluntarily vacated; (b) assigned, sublet, sold or transferred his or her tenancy rights either voluntarily or by court order; (c) abandoned; (d) died; or he or she has (e) been evicted pursuant to paragraph (2), (3), (4) or (5) of Section 1161 of the Code of Civil Procedure or Section 798.56 of the Civil Code as in effect on January 1, 2007; then, and in such event, the provisions of this Act shall be effective immediately as to such unit or space."


Stop fumigation of citizens without their consent in California
Target: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Joe Simitian, Assemblymember Loni Hancock, Assemblymember John Laird, Senator Abel Maldonado
Sponsored by: John Russo

Additional information is available at


Mumia Abu-Jamal Is an Innocent Man!
Free Mumia Now!
Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!
Saturday, April 19
2:30 p.m.
14th & Broadway, Oakland
Initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee and the Labor Black League for Social Defense

Time is short. Mumia has nearly reached the end of the legal road, and there is no reason to believe he can receive a better outcome before the full Third Circuit Court or from the neo-segregationist U.S. Supreme Court. Mumia’s struggle embodies the struggle against this system of capitalist exploitation and racist oppression. This underlines the urgent need to mobilize the social power of labor in his defense. When Mumia was faced with imminent death at the hands of the state’s executioner in 1995, mass protests, including by unions and other organizations representing millions, were mobilized around the world and stayed the executioner’s hand. There can be no flinching on Mumia’s innocence, on the need to fight for his freedom and to abolish the racist death penalty. We call on all fighters for Mumia’s freedom to mobilize now and join in genuine mass united-front protests.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent! Free Mumia now! Abolish the racist death penalty!

For more information, call 510-839-0852

The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which champions cases and causes in the interests of the whole of the working people. This purpose is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League.

Murdering Mumia: A Strategic Component of the War on Black America --
A Conversation with Chris Kinder, Coordinator, Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu Jamal

Access the "Taking Aim" web site above for the one hour program with Chris Kinder broadcast last Tuesday on WBAI, New York. Accessing the web site gives you the choice of playing the entire program or downloading it so that you can go both forward and backwards. The show is heard primarily on WBAI New York but also on Pacifica "listener-supported" radio.



ILWU-called May Day Labor Antiwar Demo
Meet at 10:30 a.m. at Mason & Beach (Fisherman's Wharf)
March at 11:00 a.m.
Rally at Noon at Justin Herman Plaza

SF Immigrant Rights May Day Demo
Meet at Dolores Park at 2pm
March at 3:30 pm
Rally at 6:00 pm in Civic Center Plaza

Oakland Immigrant Rights May Day Demo
Meet at 3:00 pm Fruitvale Plaza (35th & International Blvd.)
March at 4:00 pm
Rally at 6:00 pm at Oakland City Hall Plaza
At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, many working people were opposed to the invasion. Now the overwhelming majority want to end the war and withdraw troops. Yet, both major political parties continue to fund the war. Marches and demonstrations have not been able to stop the war. The Longshore Union (ILWU) will stop work for 8 hours in every port on the West Coast on May 1st. This action shows that working people have the power to stop the war.


We'll march from the Longshore Union hall at the corner of Mason and Beach Streets (Fisherman's Wharf area), along the Embarcadero--where San Francisco was forged into a union town in the 1934 General Strike. A rally will be held in Justin Herman Plaza across from the Ferry Building at noon.

--Stop the war!
--Withdraw the troops now!
--No scapegoating immigrant workers for the economic crisis!
--Healthcare for all!
--Funding for schools and housing!
--Defend civil liberties and workers'rights!


Port Workers' May Day Organizing Committee


NY Metro APWU votes May Day action against the war--ILWU website-Stop work in W Coast ports to stop the war--ILWU letter to John Sweeney about May Day

2 minutes of silence May 1st in all postal stations -- backing ILWU & NALC May Day actions

7,000-member NY Metro Area Postal Union (APWU) votes May Day action to protest 'unjust' US war in Iraq

Scroll down for ILWU's decision to Stop Work to Stop the War on May 1st
in West Coast ports, and ILWU appeal to John Sweeney to "spread the word" on May Day labor actions

The New York Metro Area local of the American Postal Workers Union will observe a "2-minute period of silence at 1:00 AM, 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM" during all three shifts on May 1st, 2008 - International Workers Day - to show their opposition to the Iraq war and occupation and Bush's threats to attack Iran and Syria.

The resolution, "in support of labor actions to stop the war," passed without opposition at the general membership meeting March 19th. NY Metro is the largest local in the APWU, representing many thousands of clerks and other postal workers in Manhattan, the Bronx and several large mail processing facilities in New Jersey.

The vote by NY Metro is "in solidarity with the actions of our brothers and sisters in the ILWU," which plans to shut down all West Coast ports for 8 hours on May 1st, and with San Francisco Branch 214 letter carriers, who voted to have a 2-minute period of silence (at 8:15 AM) on May Day in all carrier stations, in opposition to the war.

The resolution also urged NY Metro members in all postal facilities to "wear a button, ribbon, badge or some other symbol in protest of the war on May Day." On March 22, NY Metro leaders and members marched with other unionists in the "River to River Against the War" protest on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. They marched on 14th Street in both directions, from the East River to the Hudson, meeting up for a rally at Union Square with wounded veterans of the war and military families.

WHEREAS New York Metro has long opposed the U.S. war against and occupation of Iraq as unnecessary and unjust; and

WHEREAS the Bush administration is threatening to expand the war to Iran and Syria; and

WHEREAS the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is planning to shut down all Pacific Coast ports on 1 May 2008---International Workers Day, or Mayday---to protest the war; and

WHEREAS National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 214 in San Francisco is requesting its members to observe a 2-minute period of silence in all stations on Mayday in solidarity with the ILWU;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that New York Metro requests that all its members in all its stations observe a 2-minute period of silence at 1AM, 9AM and 5PM on Mayday in solidarity with the actions of our brothers and sisters in the ILWU and NALC; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that New York Metro requests all its members to wear a button, ribbon, badge or some other symbol in protest of the war on Mayday. -- Adopted without opposition March 19, 2008


ILWU website on May Day Stop Work to Stop the War
protest in West Coast ports

ILWU Longshore Caucus calls for Iraq war protest at Pacific ports on May 1

Nearly one hundred Longshore Caucus delegates voted on February 8 to support a resolution calling for an eight-hour "stop-work" meeting during the day-shift on Thursday, May 1 at ports in CA, OR and WA to protest the war by calling for the immediate, safe return of U . S . troops from Iraq .

“The Caucus has spoken on this important issue and I’ve notified the employers about our plans for 'stop work' meetings on May 1,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath .

Caucus delegates, including several military veterans, spoke passionately about the importance of supporting the troops by bringing them home safely and ending the War in Iraq . Concerns were also raised about the growing cost of the war that has threatened funding for domestic needs, including education and healthcare . Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda J. Bilmes recently estimated that the true cost of the War in Iraq to American taxpayers will exceed 3 trillion dollars--a figure they describe as "conservative . "
The union’s International Executive Board recently endorsed Barack Obama, citing his opposition to the War in Iraq as one of the key factors in the union's decision-making process .

Caucus delegates are democratically elected representatives from every longshore local who set policy for the Longshore Division .

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath has written letters to President John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and President Andy Stern of the Change-to-Win Coalition, and to the presidents of the International Transport Workers Federation and the International Dockworkers Council to inform them of the ILWU's plans for May 1 . [From ILWU website]


Text of ILWU letter to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, dated February 22, 2008
ILWU President asks Sweeney's help "spreading the word" about May 1 action opposing Iraq war

President Sweeney,

"ILWU delegates recently concluded a two-week caucus where we reached agreement on our approach for bargaining a new Pacific Coast Longshore Contract that expires on July 1, 2008. We expect talks to begin sometime in March and will keep you informed of developments.

"One of the resolutions adopted by caucus delegates called on longshore workers to stop work during the day shift on May 1, 2008, to express their opposition to the war in Iraq.

"We're writing to inform you of this action, and inquire if other AFL-CIO affiliates are also planning to participate in similar events on May 1 to honor labor history and express support for the troops by bringing them home safely. We would appreciate your assistance with spreading word about this May 1 action."

In solidarity,

Robert McEllrath
ILWU International President


S.F. Labor Council backs ILWU May Day action in West Coast ports

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council has a longstanding position calling for an immediate end to the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq; therefore be it

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council supports the decision of the Longshore Caucus of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) to stop work for eight hours on Thursday, May 1, 2008—International Workers Day—at all West Coast ports, to demand "an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East." The Council supports the decision of Branch 214 of the National Association of Letter Carriers to observe two minutes of silence in all carrier stations at 8:15 a.m. on May 1, in solidarity with the ILWU action and to express their opposition to the war in Iraq; and be it further

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council encourages other unions to follow ILWUs call for a “No Peace-No Work Holiday” or other labor actions on May Day, to express their opposition to the U.S. wars and occupations in the Middle East; and be it finally

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council send a letter of congratulations to ILWU President Bob McEllrath for his union's bold initiative to use the occasion of International Workers Day to stop work to stop the war.

—Resolution adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council March 24, 2008, by unanimous vote.


Rock for Justice-Rock for Palestine
FREE outdoor festival
May 10th, 2008
Civic Center, San Francisco

Dear Comrade,

I am involved in the Local Nakba Committee (LNC), which is made up of Palestinians and allies for justice in Palestine from the San Francisco/Bay Area. Our purpose for coming together is to raise awareness, unite, and mark 60 years since the ongoing Palestinian Nakba and struggle for self-determination and the right of return. We are promoting a very special day-long FREE Palestine, Peace and Solidarity Festival-with an amazing program of Palestinian, and other musicians for peace and justice. The FREE outdoor festival will be held at the Civic Center in downtown San Francisco, May 10th, 2008.

The purpose of the Solidarity Festival is to raise the voices of Palestinian and other artists who resist the domination of their communities, through music and to initiate a public discourse of our issues. Palestinians are the largest and longest displaced refugee community in the world as a result of Israel's occupation, Apartheid-wall and illegal settlements. We intend to use resistance music and issue a rallying call for those in solidarity to build a mass popular movement and support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and right of return.

In order reach out beyond our existing allies, the event will serve as an opportunity to outreach broadly and educate youth and those who are interested in understanding the historical context of Palestine. The event is a first step to historical and political education, and for those interested, the LNC is planning youth programs and educational workshops for both the day of, and to follow the event.

I am contacting you on behalf of the Local Nakba Committee to request a demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinian people. To make this historic gathering possible, will require tremendous amount of labor and financial contribution. The concert will only happen with the generosity of donors such as yourself. Thank you for recognizing the urgency of this time in the Palestinian people's struggle, and helping make it possible to hear these important voices.

Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition is acting as the fiscal sponsor of the event ( Please feel free to contact me with for additional information and questions.

Thank you for your support!

Local Nakba Committee Coordinator

Please make your tax-deductible donation, payable to 'Palestine Right to Return Coalition' or 'PRRC/Palestine Solidarity Concert'

Mail to:

Local Nakba Committee (LNC)
PO Box #668
2425 Channing Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Event Sponsorship - If your organization or business wishes to sponsor the event, have a booth, and/or to be listed in all related promotional material, please see, and be in full agreement with the points of unity below.

For a detailed budget breakdown and itemization of artist & logistic expenses that your contribution will go directly towards, please email: requesting specific sponsorship opportunities.

For more information about individuals who make up the Local Nakba Committee, please email us at the above address for a list of bio's.

For more information about, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition, see:

For regular concert updates see our website at:

You can donate online at the Facebook Cause 'Nakba-60, Palestine Solidarity Concert' at:

List of confirmed artists:

Dam, featuring Abeer, aka 'Sabreena da Witch'–Palestinian Hip-Hop crew from Lid (1948, Palestine).

Dead Prez

Fred Wreck–DJ/Producer, for artists Snoop Dogg, Hilary Duff,
Brittany Spears and other celebs.

Ras Ceylon –Sri Lankan Revolution Hip Hop

Arab Summit:
Narcicyst - with Iraqi-Canadian Hip Hop group Euphrates
Excentrik- Palestinian Producer/Composer/MC
Omar Offendun- with Syrian/Sudani Hip Hop group The N.o.m.a.d.s
Ragtop- with Palestinian/Filipino group The Philistines
Scribe Project – Palestinian/Mexican Hip Hop/Soul Band

Additional artists still pending confirmation.

Coalition Building: The LNC is working with a coalition of social justice groups and organizations. Our primary goal is to further reach out to natural allies and communities who are affected by the similar issues as Palestinians. We are calling on Native communities to commemorate with those who have died, or been killed by fighting for self-determination, and Hurricane Katrina Solidarity groups with their solidarity message to Palestinians of the "right to return" to New Orleans. More generally, we are calling on groups organizing youth & communities around issues of social justice, indigenous/land/human rights, and international law.

Online video streaming: The goal is to provide online video steaming technology of the concert, so that it can be watched from Palestine and anywhere in the world.

Points of Unity for Concert Sponsorship

An end to all US political, military and economic aid to Israel.

The divestment of all public and private entities from all Israeli corporations and American corporations with subsidiaries operating within Israel.

An end to the investment of Labor Union members' pension funds in Israel.
The boycott of all Israeli products.

The right to return for all Palestinian refugees to their original towns, villages and lands with compensation for damages inflicted on their property and lives.

The right for all Palestinian refugees to full restitution of all confiscated and destroyed property.

The formation of an independent, democratic state for its citizens in all of Palestine.


For Immediate Release
Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim South, 11767 Harbor Boulevard,
Garden Grove, California, 92840
May 16-18, 2008

The 6th Annual International Al-Awda Convention will mark a devastating event in the long history of the Palestinian people. We call it our Nakba.

Confirmed speakers include Bishop Atallah Hanna, Supreme Justice Dr. Sheikh Taiseer Al Tamimi, Dr. Adel Samara, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Dr. Ghada Karmi, Dr. As'ad Abu Khalil, Dr. Saree Makdisi, and Ramzy Baroud. Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Salim El Hos and Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar have also been invited.

Host Organizations for the sixth international Al-Awda convention include Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Palestinian American Women Association, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab-Americans, Middle East Cultural and Information Center - San Diego, The Arab Community Center of the Inland Empire, Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid - Southern California, Palestine Aid Society, Palestinian American Congress, Bethlehem Association, Al-Mubadara - Southern California, Union of Palestinian American Women, Birzeit Society , El-Bireh Society, Arab American Friends of Nazareth, Ramallah Club, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, International Action Center , Students for Justice in Palestine at CSUSB, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCR, Students for International Knowledge at CSUSB, Muslim Students Association at Palomar College, Muslim Students Association at UCSD, and Muslim Students Association at Mira Costa.


In May of 1948, with the support of the governments of the United States, Britain, and other European powers, Zionists declared the establishment of the "State of Israel" on stolen Palestinian Arab land and intensified their full-scale attack on Palestine. They occupied our land and forcibly expelled three quarters of a million of our people. This continues to be our great catastrophe, which we, as Palestinians with our supporters, have been struggling to overcome since.

The sixth international Al-Awda convention is taking place at a turning point in our struggle to return and reclaim our stolen homeland. Today, there are close to 10 million Palestinians of whom 7.5 million are living in forced exile from their homeland. While the Zionist "State of Israel" continues to besiege, sanction, deprive, isolate, discriminate against and murder our people, in addition to continually stealing more of our land, our resistance has grown. Along with our sisters and brothers at home and elsewhere in exile, Al-Awda has remained steadfast in demanding the implementation of the sacred, non-negotiable national, individual and collective right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands.

The sixth international Al-Awda convention will be a historic and unique event. The convention will aim to recapitulate Palestinian history with the help of those who have lived it, and to strengthen our ability to educate the US public about the importance and justness of implementing the unconditional right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands. With symposia and specialty workshops, the focus of the convention will be on education that lead to strategies and mechanisms for expanding the effectiveness of our advocacy for the return.


We invite all Al-Awda members, and groups and individuals who support the implementation of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, and to reclaim their land, to join us in this landmark Sixth Annual International Convention on the 60th year of Al-Nakba.


The convention will culminate in a major demonstration to mark 60 years of Nakba and to call for The RETURN TO PALESTINE. The demonstration will be held in solidarity and coordination with our sisters and brothers who continue the struggle in our beloved homeland.


Organizational endorsements welcome. Please write to us at convention6@

For information on how to become part of the host committee, please write to convention6@

For more information, please go to http://al-awda. org/convention6 and keep revisiting that page as it is being updated regularly.

To submit speaker and panel/workshop proposals, write to
info@al-awda. org or convention6@

Until return,

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-685-3243
Fax: 360-933-3568
E-mail: info@al-awda. org
WWW: http://al-awda. org

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) is the largest network of grassroots activists and students dedicated to Palestinian human rights. We are a not for profit tax-exempt educational and charitable 501(c)(3) organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States of America. Under IRS guidelines, your donations to PRRC are tax-deductible.


Call for an Open U.S. National Antiwar Conference
Stop the War in Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!
Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Crown Plaza Hotel
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email:

List of Endorsers (below call):

Endorse the conference:


2008 has ushered in the fifth year of the war against Iraq and an occupation "without end" of that beleaguered country. Unfortunately, the tremendous opposition in the U.S. to the war and occupation has not yet been fully reflected in united mass action.

The anniversary of the invasion has been marked in the U.S. by Iraq Veterans Against the War's (IVAW's) Winter Soldier hearings March 13-16, in Washington, DC, providing a forum for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to expose the horrors perpetrated by the U.S. wars. A nonviolent civil disobedience action against the war in Iraq was also called for March 19 in Washington and local actions around the country were slated during that month as well.

These actions help to give voice and visibility to the deeply held antiwar sentiment of this country's majority. Yet what is also urgently needed is a massive national mobilization sponsored by a united antiwar movement capable of bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets to demand "Out Now!"

Such a mobilization, in our opinion, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the war -- and held on a day agreeable to the IVAW -- could have greatly enhanced all the other activities which were part of that commemoration in the U.S. Indeed, a call was issued in London by the World Against War Conference on December 1, 2007 where 1,200 delegates from 43 nations, including Iraq, voted unanimously to call on antiwar movements in every country to mobilize mass protests against the war during the week of March 15-22 to demand that foreign troops be withdrawn immediately.

The absence of a massive united mobilization during this period in the United States -- the nation whose weapons of terrifying mass destruction have rained death and devastation on the Iraqi people -- when the whole world will mobilize in the most massive protests possible to mark this fifth year of war, should be a cause of great concern to us all.

For Mass Action to Stop the War: The independent and united mobilization of the antiwar majority in massive peaceful demonstrations in the streets against the war in Iraq is a critical element in forcing the U.S. government to immediately withdraw all U.S. military forces from that country, close all military bases, and recognize the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny.

Mass actions aimed at visibly and powerfully demonstrating the will of the majority to stop the war now would dramatically show the world that despite the staunch opposition to this demand by the U.S. government, the struggle by the American people to end the slaughter goes on. And that struggle will continue until the last of the troops are withdrawn. Such actions also help bring the people of the United States onto the stage of history as active players and as makers of history itself.

Indeed, the history of every successful U.S. social movement, whether it be the elementary fight to organize trade unions to defend workers' interests, or to bring down the Jim Crow system of racial segregation, or to end the war in Vietnam, is in great part the history of independent and united mass actions aimed at engaging the vast majority to collectively fight in its own interests and therefore in the interests of all humanity.

For an Open Democratic Antiwar Conference: The most effective way to initiate and prepare united antiwar mobilizations is through convening democratic and open conferences that function transparently, with all who attend the conferences having the right to vote. It is not reasonable to expect that closed or narrow meetings of a select few, or gatherings representing only one portion of the movement, can substitute for the full participation of the extremely broad array of forces which today stand opposed to the war.

We therefore invite everyone, every organization, every coalition, everywhere in the U.S. - all who oppose the war and the occupation -- to attend an open democratic U.S. national antiwar conference and join with us in advancing and promoting the coming together of an antiwar movement in this country with the power to make a mighty contribution toward ending the war and occupation of Iraq now.

Everyone is welcome. The objective is to place on the agenda of the entire U.S. antiwar movement a proposal for the largest possible united mass mobilization(s) in the future to stop the war and end the occupation.

Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.

List of Endorsers

Join us in Cleveland on June 28-29 for the conference.
Sponsored by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation
P.O. Box 21008; Cleveland, OH 44121; Voice Mail: 216-736-4704; Email:


Center for Labor Renewal Statement and Call for the Elimination of Two-Tier Workplaces

On Saturday, January 26, 2008, over 80 U.S. and Canadian auto industry worker/activists met in Flint, Michigan, birthplace of militant unionism in the Auto Industry in the late 1903s. The agenda was how to measure and respond to the crippling impact of the 2007 auto industry collective bargaining agreements. The daylong discussions led to the issuance of the following Statement and Call for a:

Campaign to oppose two-tier wages

The United States has never been an equal opportunity society. During periods of intense collective struggle workers made economic gains, but sustained progress in equity distribution has not been achieved. Capital’s effort to exploit labor is never put on hold for long. Over the past 30 years corporate America, often supported by government, has engaged in an all-out assault on working people. That relentless campaign has increased and extended social inequality to levels many had not thought possible without triggering a concerted rebellion from the ranks of labor. Such an upsurge of resistance has not yet coalesced but there are indications that worker anger and disillusionment is rising.

Corporate aggression, particularly in historically well-organized, higher wage industries is increasingly tied to capital’s global restructuring agenda, which is capitalizing on the low standard of living prevalent in impoverished countries and regions around the world. The rising demand for U.S. worker concessions in such sectors as auto, metalwork, electronics, communications, etc. is part of that restructuring process and, unchallenged, sweeps all workers into a downward spiral of wage and working conditions. Employer claims that competition necessitates wage and benefit reductions in order to save jobs has become the weapon of choice. Workers are told they have to choose between massive reductions for future generations of workers or no job at all.

That this is happening in the most heavily unionized industries reveals the effectiveness of the corporate strategy to both disarm and attract many union leaders and some portion of the base to accept the proposition that pursuing their agenda of “competitiveness” is in our mutual interest. The U.S. labor leadership has not put forward any meaningful alternatives to global corporate restructuring. Embracing the companies’ “competitiveness” agenda is a flawed, if not fatal strategy.

The corporations are demanding, and the unions are accepting, permanent two-tier wage schemes whereby new hires work side by side with workers earning substantially higher wages for the same tasks. This new, generalized wage retreat comes after years of unresolved wage inequities that have disproportionately affected women and workers of color in U.S. workplaces. The introduction of both two-tier and “permanent temporary” workers in auto plants adds more layers of blatant discrimination. We must continue to fight against all forms of discrimination in two-tier wage structures, whether directed at workers of color or women, or now “the new hire” and the defenseless temp workers.

Our acceptance makes us an accessory to corporate divide and conquer schemes

Allowing the employers to expand inequality, rather then resolve it fosters additional resentment among workers and recklessly severs solidarity between generations. Two-tier wage agreements and the use of permanent temporary workers make the union partners in the business of exploiting workers.

Big Three auto contracts institutionalize second-class workers

In the 2007 Big Three auto negotiations the UAW, a once powerful wage and benefits pacesetter, agreed to a radically reduced two-tier wage and benefit package. The Big Three auto agreement cuts wages for new workers by up to 50 percent (67 percent if you include benefits) for doing the same work as current workers. The need to help the companies be more “competitive” to insure “job security” was the advertised selling point. The 25-year history of concession bargaining in auto has not stopped the massive decline in the ranks of the Big Three from 750,000 in 1979 when the concession era began to 170,000 today. Yet contract after contract during that period were heralded as “historic job security” agreements.

In 200 the UAW negotiated a Supplemental Two-Tier Wage Agreement for new hires at Delphi Corporation, a former GM Parts division, which had been “spun-off” as an independent parts supplier in 1999. Members of one UAW-Delphi Local, Local 2151 voted to appeal the International Union’s decision not to permit the thousands of Delphi union members to vote on the Supplemental Two-Tier Agreement, which affected them. In defense of their decision to evade ratification the UAW International Executive Board argued that the “future hire group is a null class.”

The segregation of future union members into a “null class” is a ruthless act of discrimination against an entire generation, and another example of the failure of competitiveness to secure jobs. Delphi subsequently used bankruptcy as a strategy to further restructure and destroy jobs and incomes. Within four years 27,000 out of 33,000 union members were eliminated at Delphi and the remaining workers were brought down to the lower wage and benefit scale.
Wage costs are not the problem

Wages and benefits of assembly workers account for less than 10 percent of the cost of a car and differentials between companies are not significant, especially since GM, Ford, and Chrysler’s competitors are primarily building cars inside the U.S. Furthermore, productivity in the auto industry has been rising rapidly: real output per worker has more than doubled since 1987. Even the Harbour-Felax Report—which analysts consider the industry bible on productivity—has acknowledged that: the Big Three has now largely eliminated the productivity gap with Japanese manufacturers.

In a globally restructured auto industry, it was inevitable that the Big Three would not sustain their monopoly control of the domestic market. Their arrogance toward foreign producers is only matched by their greed and arrogance toward consumers. This resulted in decades of marketing second rate, unimaginative, and shoddily engineered products at the same time union workers were making concessions allegedly to help them be more competitive. Yet, coming on the heels of the Delphi bankruptcy, the 2007 negotiations were pitched as if the sacrifices of workers was the only thing that could help the domestic auto manufacturers out of the “competitiveness” hole they’d dug themselves into. Making workers pay for the bosses’ mistakes is as much a national pastime as baseball.

The new-hire wage rates in UAW contracts with the Big Three automakers are now set below the average industrial wage in the U.S. which is already below that of other major developed countries. The competitive spiral will accelerate as foreign transplants are relieved of the pressure to match union wages. The failure to protect wages, benefits, and working conditions means that it will be even more difficult for the UAW to organize new workers. Yet the real answer to the “competitiveness” question lies in organizing the workers employed by the anti-union foreign owned producers and taking wages, benefits, and working conditions out of competition through solidarity-unionism.

For Canadian Auto Workers whose collective agreements with the same Big Three companies expire in September of 2008, the reduced new worker hire rate and permanent two-tier precedents set in the U.S. will represent a huge challenge. CAW members have traditionally resisted the concession patterns of their neighbors to the South; their continued resistance in their negotiations this Fall would be reinforced by a rising tide of opposition from U.S. auto workers to slashing wages and attacks on worker dignity.

The Japanese companies have already introduced the two-tier half-wage system in Japan. The threat of unionization had, until now, blocked their trying it here. But with the implementation of two-tier in the Big Three plants, they can now do the same in this country. Net result: no shift in relative competitiveness, but a destructive further lowering of wages for all auto industry workers.

Furthermore, now that the new hire wage rate is set below the industry average for the Big Three, workers in the auto parts supply industry will be confronted with a stark choice: accept lower wages or their jobs will be outsourced, or more correctly “re-insourced,” to the big auto companies at the radically reduced new lower tier wages. Once again the net result is zero security for workers and a further collapse in living standards. As part and parcel of the concessions mentality, the auto union failed to pursue its own longstanding demand for single-payer national healthcare (for all). Instead, they agreed to relieve Big Three automakers of billions of dollars in legacy costs for retiree healthcare protection by accepting responsibility for future coverage through an under-funded Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA.

The UAW is not the only union that has bargained away equality within the workforce. This trend is the deathwatch for the labor movement in our era. Union collaboration in wage discrimination for the sake of competitiveness is the counsel of despair. The future of active and retired workers is inextricably bound with the future of new workers. The segregation of future union members into a “null class” is an invitation for “payback” at some future time. If new hires are treated as a “null class,” one day they will in turn classify senior workers and retirees as a “null class.” There is no seniority date for dignity and should be no retirement from solidarity.

The corporate blitzkrieg on working people is subsidized with tax abatements while health, education, and social programs are slashed to the bone. The parrots of the status quo insist there is no alternative to an economic system that degrades workers, deprives the unfortunate of health care, undermines the security of the elderly, and desecrates the environment. It’s a lie. The degradation of the working class is chronic and contagious. We need strategic collective action with allies here and around the world.

History suggests that UAW members would have followed the lead of a progressive leadership to militantly resist the destruction of wage parity and other hard won gains in the workplace. But nearly 30 years of concession bargaining and yielding to the “logic of the competitiveness agenda” produced an opposite result.

Workers throughout all employment sectors face this same assault on wages, benefits, and working conditions in one form or another. It is time for all workers to reject the false logic of corporate competitiveness and reinvigorate the logic of solidarity.

Today, we stand at the crossroad knowing full well where both roads lead. One road leads to division, despair, and social isolation, and the other road points to hope, solidarity, and the dignity of collective struggle.
Call for national campaign

In conjunction with the Center for Labor Renewal, participants at the Flint, January 26, 2008 meeting issue the following Call:

In the face of the continuing assault on worker wages, benefits, and the quality of work life where rising economic injustice is destroying the stability and hopes of an increasing numbers of workers and their families, here and around the world; and where inequality and income discrimination are celebrated by a protected few at the desperate expense of so many others; we call on all workers of conscience everywhere to join a campaign to bring our collective strength and renewed solidarity to the struggle against the agenda of social devaluation and despair.

Workers in the auto industry have a critical role to play in this campaign given the destructive events in that industry which now, more than ever, seeks to validate the pitting of workers against workers, and communities against communities, and the glorification of the false dog-eat-dog, workplace agenda of the corporations today. In that world its “winner-take-all,” and the winner has been pre-determined. We call on all auto workers to reject all forms of wage discrimination and renew the fight for industrial democracy through worker solidarity, and to:

• Build within our workplaces, a movement against two-tier wages, and a renewal of solidarity unionism by means of varied communications vehicles including the internet; web sites; newsletters and plant gate handbills, etc.

• Promote crosscurrents of opposition against the creation of second-class workers in all workplaces.

• Where a two-tier system is in place, concretely demonstrate to the new workers that there is a strong base of resistance against the discrimination they face, and that we all need to remember the lesson that “an injury to one, is an injury to all.”

• Within the Big Three, or any auto workplaces, target the rejection of future agreements (2011 in the Big Three ) if they do not reverse the two-tier system.

• Promote internal democracy to encourage the inclusion and participation of the second tier workers alongside the entire rank and file to change the concessionary path followed by the current leadership.

Such a campaign will need mechanisms to facilitate links, exchange information, and assist in the coordination of future actions. Coming out of a meeting organized by the Center for Labor Renewal (CLR) of 80 activists in Flint, Michigan, the CLR commits to:

• Collect and develop material for building the necessary base in the workplace and its electronic dissemination. Assist in the development and proliferation of additional vehicles of communication.

• Develop an information clearinghouse to gather and disseminate reports and updates on local struggles and developments.

• Support regional forums to assist activists in developing the arguments and organizational capacities to build the solidarity program at the base

• Facilitate national meetings through which local activists can assess the campaign and collectively strategize on further events and actions.

• Promote the development of the analytical tools required by union activists to successfully integrate this campaign with a workers’ struggle that is increasingly global in dimension.

This fight is winnable. The U.S. working class needs a victory and it needs this victory in particular. The one-sided class war against workers has gone on far too long. The defeat of the two tier system is a crucial step in the struggle to address broader inequalities in our society. It’s time to draw the line.

—Center for Labor Renewal/

—Future of the Union/

—Factory Rat/

—Soldiers of Solidarity


Help Save Troy Davis

Troy Davis came within 24 hours of execution in July, 2007 before receiving a temporary stay of execution. Two weeks later the Georgia Supreme Court agreed to hear his extraordinary motion for a new trial. On Monday, March 17, 2008 the court denied Mr. Davis’ appeal. Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even during the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's nine non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

The message:

"I welcomed your decision to stay the execution of Troy Anthony Davis in July 2007, and thank you for taking the time to consider evidence of his innocence. When you issued this decision, you stated that the board "will not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused." Because the Georgia Supreme Court denied Troy Davis a hearing, doubts of his guilt will always remain. I appeal to you to be true to your words and commute the death sentence of Troy Davis.

"This case has generated widespread attention, which reflects serious concerns in Georgia and throughout the United States about the potential for executing an innocent man. The power of clemency exists as a safety net to prevent such an irreversible error. As you know, Mr. Davis has been on death row in Georgia for more than 15 years for the murder of a police officer he maintains that he did not commit. Davis' conviction was not based on any physical evidence, and the murder weapon was never found.

"Despite mounting evidence that Davis may in fact be innocent of the crime, appeals to courts to consider this evidence have been repeatedly denied for procedural reasons. Instead, the prosecution based its case on the testimony of purported "witnesses," many of whom allege police coercion, and most of whom have since recanted their testimony. One witness signed a police statement declaring that Davis was the assailant then later said "I did not read it because I cannot read." In another case a witness stated that the police "were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would…go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed…I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail." There are also several witnesses who have implicated another man in the crime but the police focused their efforts on convicting Troy.

"It is deeply troubling to me that Georgia might proceed with this execution given the strong claims of innocence in this case. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that our criminal justice system is not devoid of error and we now know that 127 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States due to wrongful conviction. We must confront the unalterable fact that the system of capital punishment is fallible, given that it is administered by fallible human beings. I respectfully urge the Board of Pardons and Paroles to demonstrate your strong commitment to fairness and justice and commute the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis.

Thank you for your kind consideration."

Messages will be sent to:

Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909

Telephone: (404) 657-9350
Fax: (404) 651-8502

Please take a moment to help Troy Davis. On Monday, March 17, 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court decided 4-3 to deny a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis, despite significant concerns regarding his innocence. The stunning decision by the Georgia Supreme Court to let Mr. Davis' death sentence stand means that the state of Georgia might soon execute a man who well may be innocent.



For 35 years, Jim Crow justice in Louisiana has kept Herman Wallace
and Albert Woodfox locked in solitary confinement for a crime
everyone knows they didn't commit.

Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the "Angola 3",
spend 23 hours each day in a 6x9 cell on the site of a former
plantation. Prison officials - and the state officials who could
intervene - won't end the terrible sentence. They've locked them up
and thrown away the key because they challenged a system that deals an
uneven hand based on the color of one's skin and tortures those who
assert their humanity.

We can help turn things around by making it a political liability for
the authorities at Angola to continue the racist status quo, and by
forcing federal and state authorities to intervene. I've signed on
with to demand an investigation into this clear case
of unequal justice. Will you join us?

When spoke up about the Jena 6, it was about more
than helping six Black youth in a small town called Jena. It was about
standing up against a system of unequal justice that deals an uneven
hand based on the color of one's skin. That broken system is at work
again and is joining The Innocence Project and
Amnesty International to challenge it in the case of the Angola 3.

"Angola", sits on 18,000 acres of former plantation land in Louisiana
and is estimated to be one of the largest prisons in the United
States. Angola's history is telling: once considered one of the most
violent, racially segregated prison in America, almost a prisoner a
day was stabbed, shot or raped. Prisoners were often put in inhumane
extreme punishment camps for small infractions. The Angola 3 -
Herman, Albert and Robert - organized hunger and work strikes within
the prison in the 70's to protest continued segregation, corruption
and horrific abuse facing the largely Black prisoner population.

Shortly after they spoke out, the Angola 3 were convicted of murdering
a prison guard by an all-white jury. It is now clear that these men
were framed to silence their peaceful revolt against inhumane
treatment. Since then, they have spent every day for 35 years in 6x9
foot cells for a crime they didn't commit.

Herman and Albert are not saints. They are the first to admit they've
committed crimes. But, everyone agrees that their debts to society
for various robbery convictions were paid long ago.

NBC News/Dateline just aired a piece this week about the plight of the
Angola 3. And it's time to finally get some justice for Herman and
Albert. For far too long, court officials have stalled and refused to
review their cases. Evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and
constitutional violations have not swayed them.

It's now time for the Governor of Louisiana and the United States
Congress, which provides the funding for federal prisons like Angola,
to step in and say enough is enough. Please join us in calling for
Governor Bobby Jindal and your Congressperson to initiate an immediate
and full investigation into the case of the Angola 3.


Gaza's lost childhood - 23 March 08

Mike Prysner (Part 1 and Part 2 -- please watch both parts. Wow! This is powerful testimony. Thank you, Mike Prysner!
Winter Soldier Testimonies
or try:

Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1
Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony Pt2

Tent Cities, USA



~ Please circulate this urgent update widely ~

The ANSWER Coalition is vigorously supporting the campaign launched by the Partnership for Civil Justice to defend free speech rights on the National Mall. We thank all the ANSWER Coalition supporters who have joined this campaign and we urge everyone to do so. What follows is an urgent message from the Partnership for Civil Justice about the campaign.

For those who already signed the Statement in Defense of Free Speech, Please take 30 seconds to let us know if we can publicize your name as a signer along with 15,000 others. If you signed up before, it is crucial that you take the next step by clicking this link.


Save the National Mall as a place of protest!

The struggle to preserve Free Speech in Washington D.C. has entered a new phase. We are writing to you so that you can help in the next step of this critical struggle. If he gets his way, Bush will leave office having shredded fundamental rights to redress grievances and engage in dissent on the National Mall in the nation's capital. But we can stop this plan.

Because of the participation of you and so many other people around the country, the Bush Administration has been pushed on the defensive. Due to immense public pressure that has been mobilized in the last months the government is now resorting to a smoke and mirror campaign to derail those who are fighting to preserve cherished rights. The people can stop them.

We need you to take action right now:

We are planning on sending the Statement in Defense of Free Speech Rights on the National Mall -- with a list of its thousands of signers -- to the National Park Service and want to further publish the statement. Showing just how many people have already taken action will be an important part of the campaign to defend the National Mall and the First Amendment.

Before we send or publish the statement and signers, we want to confirm with you that we can include you as a signer. We value your privacy. Please take 30 seconds to fill out the form here if you have already signed the statement.

Please take a moment and help this Free Speech movement take the next step. If you signed the Statement in Defense of Free Speech on the National Mall before it is crucial that you take the next step by clicking this link. You can also let us know on this same link if you do not want your name included publicly. Initial signers include, Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan, Ed Asner, Malik Rahim, Ramsey Clark, Kathy Kelly, Ron Kovic, Dennis Banks and many others.

Here is the situation: More than 15,000 letters flooded the National Park Service (NPS) supporting the centrality of free speech rights on the National Mall. The Bush Administration was shocked by the overwhelming response. They thought that they could essentially privatize the National Mall in Washington DC and quietly eliminate essential Free Speech activities. The plan is to go into effect the last month that Bush is in office in January 2009.

This insidious goal hasn't changed one bit but they have now quickly shifted their tactics to blunt the massive new movement that has arisen to defend Free Speech on the National Mall.

Bush's NPS has quickly revamped the web site. The phrase "First Amendment" now appears all over the site. You would think that they are re-organizing the National Mall in order to have more demonstrations, protests and rallies rather than try to banish or limit them. It is all smoke and mirrors. More untruths from the Bush Administration working in partnership with Corporate America.

This is a coordinated effort that we are seeing across the country - the privatization of our public spaces to make them off-limits for us to gather for free speech and assembly. While we have just been victorious in the fight for the Great Lawn of Central Park all eyes are now turning to the National Mall. This is the battle of most significance with repercussions that will be felt coast-to-coast.

Here is how you can help. It will take only a moment of your time but it will make a huge difference.

1) The Partnership for Civil Justice has set up an easy-to-use mechanism that will allow you to send a message directly to the National Park Service about their National Mall Plan. Click this link to send your message.

2) Sign the Statement in Defense of Free Speech Rights on the National Mall.

3) If you have already signed this statement, click this link right now to let us know if we can publicize you as a signer of this important statement.

4) If you are unsure whether you have already signed, you can sign the statement again, and all duplicate names will be eliminated.


Mara Verheyden-Hillard and Carl Messineo, co-founders of Partnership
for Civil Justice


More links

Background on the NPS initiative to restrict protesting on the National Mall

Washington Post article: The Battle to Remold the Mall

Alternet article: National Mall Redesign Could Seriously Restrict Free Speech


A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 323-464-1636
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311

If this message was forwared to you and you'd like to receive future ANSWER updates, click here:


Student Walkout Portland Oregon 3/20/08


The Sand Creek Massacre (6 MINUTES)


Thought you might enjoy this item I've posted about a 1970 antiwar
poster folio with a name similar to yours.
Lots of good history here.

Lincoln Cushing




1) Wall Street Winners Get Billion-Dollar Paydays
April 16, 2008

2) Merck Wrote Drug Studies for Doctors
April 16, 2008

3) IOF Kill 13 Palestinian Civilians, Including a Journalist and 8 Children, in Juhor al-Dik Village in Central Gaza Strip
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Press Release
Ref: 33/2008
Date: 17 April 2008
Time: 09:00 GMT

4) Tuskegee, Anyone?
It seems as if we have Tuskegee Experiment part two here:
by Kevin
April 15, 2008

5) A Drought in Australia, a Global Shortage of Rice
The Food Chain
April 17, 2008

6) Challenges Remain for Lethal Injection
April 17, 2008

7) Palestinians Fight Israelis in Gaza; Toll Exceeds 21
April 17, 2008

8) Desertion or a Break? An Iraqi Gives His Side
April 17, 2008

9) Immigration Sweep Ends in 280 Arrests at 5 Plants
April 17, 2008

10) Mistrial Is Declared for 6 Men in Sears Tower Terror Case
“'Politics played too important a role in this prosecution,' Professor Winick said. 'We should follow our normal prosecution pattern, which is to gather the evidence.'"
April 17, 2008

11) Workers Get Fewer Hours, Deepening the Downturn
April 18, 2008

12) Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger
April 18, 2008
Poverty in Haiti - Photos
In a garbage dump in Port-au-Prince, people recently scavenged for food.

13) U.S. Begins Erecting Wall in Sadr City
April 18, 2008

14) Nearly a Fifth of War Veterans Report Mental Disorders, a Private Study Finds
April 18, 2008

15) Strike Over Local Issues Idles a Key G.M. Plant
April 18, 2008

16) Sticker Shock in the Organic Aisles
April 18, 2008

17) Professor in Deadlocked Terrorism Case Could Face a New Indictment
April 18, 2008

18) Sadr City Fighters Lay Defenses Amid Latest Official Efforts at Calm
April 19, 2008

19) As War’s Costs Rise, Congress Demands That Iraq Pay Larger Share
April 19, 2008


1) Wall Street Winners Get Billion-Dollar Paydays
April 16, 2008

Hedge fund managers, those masters of a secretive, sometimes volatile financial universe, are making money on a scale that once seemed unimaginable, even in Wall Street’s rarefied realms.

One manager, John Paulson, made $3.7 billion last year. He reaped that bounty, probably the richest in Wall Street history, by betting against certain mortgages and complex financial products that held them.

Mr. Paulson, the founder of Paulson & Company, was not the only big winner. The hedge fund managers James H. Simons and George Soros each earned almost $3 billion last year, according to an annual ranking of top hedge fund earners by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, which comes out Wednesday.

Hedge fund managers have redefined notions of wealth in recent years. And the richest among them are redefining those notions once again.

Their unprecedented and growing affluence underscores the gaping inequality between the millions of Americans facing stagnating wages and rising home foreclosures and an agile financial elite that seems to thrive in good times and bad. Such profits may also prompt more calls for regulation of the industry.

Even on Wall Street, where money is the ultimate measure of success, the size of the winnings makes some uneasy. “There is nothing wrong with it — it’s not illegal,” said William H. Gross, the chief investment officer of the bond fund Pimco. “But it’s ugly.”

The richest hedge fund managers keep getting richer — fast. To make it into the top 25 of Alpha’s list, the industry standard for hedge fund pay, a manager needed to earn at least $360 million last year, more than 18 times the amount in 2002. The median American family, by contrast, earned $60,500 last year.

Combined, the top 50 hedge fund managers last year earned $29 billion. That figure represents the managers’ own pay and excludes the compensation of their employees. Five of the top 10, including Mr. Simons and Mr. Soros, were also at the top of the list for 2006. To compile its ranking, Alpha examined the funds’ returns and the fees that they charge investors, and then calculated the managers’ pay.

Top hedge fund managers made money in many ways last year, from investing in overseas stock markets to betting that prices of commodities like oil, wheat and copper would rise. Some, like Mr. Paulson, profited handsomely from the turmoil in the mortgage market ripping through the economy.

As early as 2005, Mr. Paulson began betting that complex mortgage investments known as collateralized debt obligations would decline in value, much as Wall Street traders bet that shares will drop in price. In that case, known as shorting, they borrow shares and sell them, wait for the price to fall, buy the shares back at a lower price and return them, pocketing the profit.

Then, over the next two years, Mr. Paulson established two funds to focus on the credit markets. One of those funds returned 590 percent last year, and the other handed back 353 percent, according to Alpha. By the end of 2007, Mr. Paulson sat atop $28 billion in assets, up from $6 billion 12 months earlier.

Mr. Soros, one of the world’s most successful speculators and richest men, leapt out of retirement last summer as the market turmoil spread — and he won big. He made $2.9 billion for the year, when his flagship Quantum fund returned almost 32 percent, according to Alpha. Mr. Simon, a mathematician and former Defense Department code breaker who uses complex computer models to trade, earned $2.8 billion. His flagship Medallion fund returned 73 percent.

Like Mr. Paulson, Philip Falcone, who founded Harbinger Partners with $25 million in June 2001, cast a winning bet against the mortgage market. He pulled in returns of 117 percent after fees in 2007 and made $1.7 billion. The trade thrust him from relative obscurity to hedge fund heavyweight: he now manages $18 billion. Harbinger recently won agreement from The New York Times Company to add two members to its board.

Hedge fund managers share their success with their investors, which include wealthy individuals, pension funds and university endowments. They typically charge annual fees equal to 2 percent of their assets under management, and take a 20 percent cut of any profits.

With a combined $2 trillion under management, the hedge fund industry is coming off its richest year ever — a feat all the more remarkable given the billions of dollars of losses suffered by major Wall Street banks.

In recent months, however, scores of hedge funds have quietly died or spectacularly imploded, wracked by bad investments, excess borrowing or leverage, and client redemptions — or a combination of those events.

“To some degree it’s a very gigantic version of Las Vegas,” said Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution.

As Alpha’s list shows, managers who reap big gains one year can lose the next.

Edward Lampert, the founder of ESL Investments and a member of the 2007 Alpha list, was absent this year. His fund fell 27 percent last year, according to Alpha. About 60 percent of ESL’s equity portfolio is invested in Sears, whose shares plunged 40 percent last year. ESL is also a major holder of Citigroup, whose abysmal performance matched that of Sears.

A manager who ranked high in the 2007 list and fell off in 2008 was James Pallotta of the Tudor Investment Corporation, who was 17th last year and earned $300 million. Mr. Pallotta’s $5.7 billion Raptor Global Fund fell almost 8 percent last year, according to Alpha.

A few who did not make the cut still made buckets of money. Bruce Kovner of Caxton Associates and Barry Rosenstein at Jana Partners didn’t make the top 50. But Mr. Kovner earned $100 million, and Mr. Rothstein earned $170 million, according to Alpha. Spokesmen for the hedge fund managers either declined to comment on Tuesday or could not be reached.

Since 1913, the United States witnessed only one other year of such unequal wealth distribution — 1928, the year before the stock market crashed, according to Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. Such inequality is likely to impede an economic recovery, he said.

“For a recovery to be robust and sustainable you can’t just have consumer demand at Nordstrom,” he said. “You need it at the little shop on the corner, too.”

Despite the explosive growth of the industry — about 10,000 hedge funds operate worldwide — it is relatively lightly regulated. On Tuesday, two panels appointed by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. advised hedge funds to adopt guidelines to increase disclosure and risk management.

And Mr. Gross, the fund manager, warned that the widening divide among the richest and everyone else is cause for worry.

“Like at the end of the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties, we are going the other way,” Mr. Gross said. “We are clearly in a period of excess, and we have to swing back to the middle or the center cannot hold."


2) Merck Wrote Drug Studies for Doctors
April 16, 2008

The drug maker Merck drafted dozens of research studies for a best-selling drug, then lined up prestigious doctors to put their names on the reports before publication, according to an article to be published Wednesday in a leading medical journal.

The article, based on documents unearthed in lawsuits over the pain drug Vioxx, provides a rare, detailed look in the industry practice of ghostwriting medical research studies that are then published in academic journals.

The article cited one draft of a Vioxx research study that was still in want of a big-name researcher, identifying the lead writer only as “External author?”

Vioxx was a best-selling drug before Merck took it off the market in 2004 over evidence linking it to heart attacks. Last fall, the company agreed to a $4.85 billion settlement to resolve tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by former Vioxx patients or their families.

The lead author of Wednesday’s article, Dr. Joseph S. Ross of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said a close look at the Merck documents raised broad questions about the validity of much of the drug industry’s published research, because the ghostwriting practice appears to be widespread.

“It almost calls into question all legitimate research that’s been conducted by the pharmaceutical industry with the academic physician,” said Dr. Ross, whose article, written with colleagues, was published Wednesday in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. and posted Tuesday on the journal’s Web site.

Merck acknowledged on Tuesday that it sometimes hired outside medical writers to draft research reports before handing them over to the doctors whose names eventually appear on the publication. But the company disputed the article’s conclusion that the authors do little of the actual research or analysis.

The final work is the product of the doctor and “accurately reflects his or her opinion,” said a Merck lawyer, James C. Fitzpatrick.

And at least one of the doctors whose published research was questioned in Wednesday’s article, Dr. Steven H. Ferris, a New York University psychiatry professor, said the notion that the article bearing his name was ghostwritten was “simply false.” He said it was “egregious” that Dr. Ross and his colleagues had done no research besides mining the Merck documents and reading the published journal articles.

In an editorial, JAMA said the analysis showed that Merck had apparently manipulated dozens of publications to promote Vioxx.

“It is clear that at least some of the authors played little direct roles in the study or review, yet still allowed themselves to be named as authors,” the editorial said.

The editorial called upon medical journal editors to require each author to report his or her specific contributions to articles. “Journal editors also bear some of the responsibility for enabling companies to manipulate publications,” the editorial said.

JAMA itself published one of the Vioxx studies that was cited in Dr. Ross’s article.

In that case, in 2002, a Merck scientist was listed as the lead author. But Dr. Catherine D. DeAngelis, JAMA’s editor, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that, even so, it was dishonest because the authors did not fully disclose the role of a ghostwriter.

“I consider that being scammed,” Dr. DeAngelis said. “But is that as serious as allowing someone to have a review article written by a for-profit company and solicited and paid for by a for-profit company and asking you to put your name on it after it was all done?”

Although the role of pharmaceutical companies in influencing medical journal articles has been questioned before, the Merck documents provided the most comprehensive look at the practice yet, according to one of the study’s four authors, Dr. David S. Egilman, a clinical associate medical professor at Brown University.

In the Vioxx lawsuits, millions of Merck documents were supplied to plaintiffs. Those documents were available to Dr. Egilman and Dr. Ross because they had served as consultants to plaintiffs’ lawyers in some of those suits.

Combing through the documents, Dr. Ross and his colleagues unearthed internal Merck e-mail messages and documents about 96 journal publications, which included review articles and reports of clinical studies. While the Ross team said it was not necessarily raising questions about all 96 articles, it said that in many cases there was scant evidence that the recruited authors made substantive contributions.

One paper involved a study of Vioxx as a possible deterrent to Alzheimer’s progression.

The draft of the paper, dated August 2003, identified the lead writer as “External author?” But when it was published in 2005 in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the lead author was listed as Dr. Leon J. Thal, a well-known Alzheimer’s researcher at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Thal was killed in an airplane crash last year.

The second author listed on the published Alzheimer’s paper, whose name had not been on the draft, was Dr. Ferris, the New York University professor. Dr. Ferris, reached by telephone Tuesday, said he had played an active role in the research and he was substantially involved in helping shape the final draft.

“It’s simply false that we didn’t contribute to the final publication,” Dr. Ferris said.

A third author, also not named on the initial draft, was Dr. Louis Kirby, currently the medical director for the company Provista Life Sciences. In an e-mail message on Tuesday, Dr. Kirby said that as a clinical investigator for the study he had enrolled more patients, 109, than any of the other researchers. He also said he made revisions to the final document.

“The fact that the draft was written by a Merck employee for later discussion by all the authors does not in and of itself constitute ghostwriting,” Dr. Kirby’s e-mail message said.

The current editor of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, Dr. James H. Meador-Woodruff, the chairman of psychiatry at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, said he was not the editor in 2005 but planned to investigate the accusations. “Currently, we have in place prohibitions against this,” Dr. Meador-Woodruff said.


3) IOF Kill 13 Palestinian Civilians, Including a Journalist and 8 Children, in Juhor al-Dik Village in Central Gaza Strip
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Press Release
Ref: 33/2008
Date: 17 April 2008
Time: 09:00 GMT

In the past 24 hours, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have escalated attacks against the Gaza Strip, while have maintained the tightened siege imposed on Strip. On Wednesday evening, 16 April 2008, and in less than half an hour, IOF killed 13 Palestinian civilians, including a journalist, 8 children and 2 brothers, and wounded 32 others, including 17 children and a woman, in Juhor al-Dik village in the central Gaza Strip. They also razed large areas of agricultural land and demolished a number of houses during an incursion into the village. PCHR's investigations strongly indicate that IOF used excessive force and willfully targeted journalists in spite of the clear markings on their suits and vehicles.[1]

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 04:00, IOF moved nearly 1,200 meters into Juhor al-Dik village in the central Gaza Strip. They raided and searched a number of houses and started to raze areas of agricultural land. At approximately 07:00, IOF fired a tank shell at a house belonging to Salem 'Ali Abu Sa'id, 73. Abu Sa'id and his daughter-in- law, 36-year-old Hala 'Atiya, were wounded by shrapnel to their shoulders. Medical sources described Abu Sa'id's wounds as serious. At approximately 16:30, an IOF aircraft that provided air cover for the incursion fired 2 missiles at a number of Palestinian civilians who gathered near al-Ihsan Mosque, nearly 300 meters away from the area in which IOF troops were deployed. As a result, 9 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children and 2 brothers were killed, and 18 others, including 12 children were wounded. The civilians who were killed were identified as:

1) Mahmoud Ahmed Mohammed, 45;

2) Sofian Ahmed Mohammed, 41;

3) 'Abdullah Maher Abu Khalil, 15;

4) Tariq Fareed Abu Taqiya, 16;

5) Islam Hussam al-'Eissawi, 16;

6) Talha Hani Abu 'Ali, 13;

7) Bayan Sameer al-Khaldi, 17;

8) Mohammed Mohammed al-'Assar, 17; and

9) Fadi Jamal Musran, 20.

Fadel Shana'a, 23, a cameraman of Reuters, accompanied by Wafa Abu Mezyed, 25, a soundman, arrived at the area to photograph the children who were killed by Israeli missiles. When they finished photographing, they got on a Reuters vehicle, which was clearly marked with the press badge. They then traveled back to continue their work in the area. They stopped hundreds of meters away from the area where IOF troops were deployed. They got out of the vehicle and a number of children gathered around them. Soon after, IOF fired a tank shell at them. Shana'a was instantly killed and Abu Mezyed was wounded. Abu Mezyed was able to flee from the area. IOF soon fired another shell that hit the back of the vehicle and heavily damaged it. Three civilians, including 2 children, were also killed by the attack, and 12 others, including 5 children, were wounded. The civilians who were killed were identified as:

1) Ahmed 'Aaref Farajallah, 14;

2) Ghassan Khaled Abu 'Otaiwi, 17; and

3) Khalil Isma'il Dughmosh, 22.

At approximately 21:30, IOF troops redeployed outside the village after razing at least 200 donums[2] of agricultural land and demolishing 6 houses.

PCHR strongly condemns and expressed utmost concern over these crimes, and:

1) Asserts that these latest crimes are part of a series of continuous crimes committed by IOF in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) with total disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians.

2) Warns of further escalation in attacks against Palestinian civilians in light of statements and threats by Israeli political and military officials, which may cause more civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip.
3) Expresses utmost concern over continued crimes committed by IOF against journalists and media professionals, and stresses that such crimes aim at silencing the press and prevent journalists from covering crimes committed by IOF against civilians.

4) Calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop such crimes, and calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention, Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to fulfill their obligation under article 1 of the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, and their obligation under article 146 to search for and prosecute those who are responsible for perpetrating grave breaches of the Convention. Such breaches constitute war crimes according to article 147 of the Convention and the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I).

Play Video Reuters cameraman's last moments

[1] PCHR has issued a separate press release condemning the killing of Fadel Shana'a, a Reuters cameraman.

[2] 1 donum is equal to 1,000 square meter.


4) Tuskegee, Anyone?
It seems as if we have Tuskegee Experiment part two here:
by Kevin
April 15, 2008

BALTIMORE - Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil. Families were assured the sludge was safe and were never told about any harmful ingredients.Nine low-income families in Baltimore row houses agreed to let researchers till the sewage sludge into their yards and plant new grass.

In exchange, they were given food coupons as well as the free lawns as part of a study published in 2005 and funded by the Housing and Urban Development Department

The Associated Press reviewed grant documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and interviewed researchers. No one involved with the $446,231 grant for the two-year study would identify the participants, citing privacy concerns. There is no evidence there was ever any medical follow-up.

“There is no evidence there was ever any medical follow-up, ”You have got to be kidding me! This is such a blatantly racist and classist experiment. How do these piss poor excuses for scientists live with themselves?

Meanwhile, there has been a paucity of research into the possible harmful effects of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals and disease-causing microorganisms often found in sludge.

A series of reports by the EPA’s inspector general and the National Academy of Sciences between 1996 and 2002 faulted the adequacy of the science behind the EPA’s 1993 regulations on sludge.

The chairman of the 2002 academy panel, Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says epidemiological studies have never been done to show whether spreading sludge on land is safe. “There are potential pathogens and chemicals that are not in the realm of safe,” Burke told the AP. “What’s needed are more studies on what’s going on with the pathogens in sludge — are we actually removing them? The commitment to connecting the dots hasn’t been there.” That’s not what the subjects of the Baltimore and East St. Louis research were told.

Rufus Chaney, an Agriculture Department research agronomist who co-wrote the Baltimore study, said the researchers provided the families with brochures about lead hazards, tested the soil in their yards and gave assurances that the Orgro fertilizer was store-bought and perfectly safe. “They were told that their lawn, as it stood, before it was treated, was a lead danger to their children,” said Chaney. “So that even if they ate some of the soil, there would not be as much of a risk as there was before. And that’s what the science shows.”

Chaney said the Baltimore neighborhoods were chosen because they were within an economically depressed area qualifying for tax incentives. He acknowledged the families were not told there have been some safety disputes and health complaints over sludge.

That’s right. They lied to the subjects and promised them pretty lawns so that they could conduct an experiment that could very well have harmful effects. What’s worse is that Mark Farafel, the lead author of the experiment has gotten in trouble for this type of experiment before.

Some of Farfel’s previous research has been controversial. In 2001, Maryland’s highest court chastised him, Kennedy Krieger and Johns Hopkins over a study bankrolled by EPA in which researchers testing low-cost ways to control lead hazards exposed more than 75 poor children to lead-based paint in partially renovated houses.

Families of two children alleged to have suffered elevated blood-lead levels and brain damage sued the institute and later settled for an undisclosed amount. The Maryland Court of Appeals likened the study to Nazi medical research on concentration camp prisoners, the U.S. government’s 40-year Tuskegee study that denied treatment for syphilis to black men in order to study the illness and Japan’s use of “plague bombs” in World War II to infect and study entire villages.

“These programs were somewhat alike in the vulnerability of the subjects: uneducated African-American men, debilitated patients in a charity hospital, prisoners of war, inmates of concentration camps and others falling within the custody and control of the agencies conducting or approving the experiments,” the court said.

That’s not controversial research; that’s completely unethical, racist, and classist research. Why does this man still have a job?

Oh, I know why.

It’s because when you use the poor and people of color as guinea pigs, nobody gives a shit; because they were only trying to help and gee, they got pretty lawns out of the deal too! Now, let’s go back to talking about how we’ve all transcended race and how systemic, government-sponsored racism is a thing of the past.

[H/T Bakare Chronicles]


5) A Drought in Australia, a Global Shortage of Rice
The Food Chain
April 17, 2008

DENILIQUIN, Australia — Lindsay Renwick, the mayor of this dusty southern Australian town, remembers the constant whir of the rice mill. “It was our little heartbeat out there, tickety-tick-tickety,” he said, imitating the giant fans that dried the rice, “and now it has stopped.”

The Deniliquin mill, the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, once processed enough grain to meet the needs of 20 million people around the world. But six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent and leading to the mothballing of the mill last December.

Ten thousand miles separate the mill’s hushed rows of oversized silos and sheds — beige, gray and now empty — from the riotous streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but a widening global crisis unites them.

The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Drought affects every agricultural industry based here, not just rice — from sheepherding, the other mainstay in this dusty land, to the cultivation of wine grapes, the fastest-growing crop here, with that expansion often coming at the expense of rice.

The drought’s effect on rice has produced the greatest impact on the rest of the world, so far. It is one factor contributing to skyrocketing prices, and many scientists believe it is among the earliest signs that a warming planet is starting to affect food production.

It is difficult to definitely link short-term changes in weather to long-term climate change, but the unusually severe drought is consistent with what climatologists predict will be a problem of increasing frequency.

Indeed, the chief executive of the National Farmers’ Federation in Australia, Ben Fargher, says, “Climate change is potentially the biggest risk to Australian agriculture.”

Drought has already spurred significant changes in Australia’s agricultural heartland. Some farmers are abandoning rice, which requires large amounts of water, to plant less water-intensive crops like wheat or, especially here in southeastern Australia, wine grapes. Other rice farmers have sold fields or water rights, usually to grape growers.

Scientists and economists worry that the reallocation of scarce water resources — away from rice and other grains and toward more lucrative crops and livestock — threatens poor countries that import rice as a dietary staple.

The global agricultural crisis is threatening to become political, pitting the United States and other developed countries against the developing world over the need for affordable food versus the need for renewable energy. Many poorer nations worry that subsidies from rich countries to support biofuels, which turn food, like corn, into fuel, are pushing up the price of staples. The World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called on major agricultural nations to overhaul policies to avoid a social explosion from rising food prices.

With rice, which is not used to make biofuel, the problem is availability. Even in normal times, little of the world’s rice is actually exported — more than 90 percent is consumed in the countries where it is grown. In the last quarter-century, rice consumption has outpaced production, with global reserves plunging by half just since 2000. A plant disease is hurting harvests in Vietnam, reducing supply. And economic uncertainty has led producers to hoard rice and speculators and investors to see it as a lucrative or at least safe bet.

All these factors have made countries that buy rice on the global market vulnerable to extreme price swings.

Senegal and Haiti each import four-fifths of their rice, and both have faced mounting unrest as prices have increased. Police suppressed violent demonstrations in Dakar on March 30, and unrest has spread to other rice-dependent nations in West Africa, notably Ivory Coast. The Haitian president, René Préval, after a week of riots, announced subsidies for rice buyers on Saturday.

Scientists expect the problem to worsen. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set up by the United Nations, predicted last year that even slight warming would lower agricultural output in the tropics and subtropics.

Moderate warming could benefit crop and pasture yields in countries far from the Equator, like Canada and Russia. In fact, the net effect of moderate warming is likely to be higher total global food production in the next several decades.

But the scientists said the effect would be uneven, and enormous quantities of food would need to be shipped from areas farther from the Equator to feed the populations of often less-affluent countries closer to the Equator.

The panel predicted that even greater warming, which might happen by late in this century if few or no limits are placed on greenhouse gas emissions, would hurt total food output and cripple crops in many countries.

Survival Techniques

Paul Lamine N’Dong, an elder in Joal, Senegal, worries that hot weather and failing rains have already crippled his village’s crop of millet, a coarse grain eaten locally and traded for rice.

Sitting on a concrete dais reserved for elders, Mr. N’Dong said on a recent morning, “The price rises very quickly, which means we really have to go and look for money.”

“It is live or die,” he said.

For farmers in a richer nation like Australia, the effects of the current drought are already significant.

The rice farmers who do not give up and sell their land or water rights are experimenting with varieties or techniques that require less water.

Still, Australia’s total rice capacity has declined by about a third because many farmers have permanently sold water rights, mostly for grape production. And production last year was far lower because of a severe shortage of water; rice farmers received one-eighth of the water they are usually promised by the government.

The accidental beneficiaries of these conditions have been the farmers who grow wine grapes in the river basin where the Deniliquin mill stands silent.

Even with the recent doubling of rice prices, to around $1,000 a metric ton for the high grades produced by Australia, it is even more profitable to grow wine grapes. All told, wine grapes produce a pretax profit of close to $2,000 an acre while rice produces a pretax profit around $240 an acre.

Also selling water rights to grape growers are ranchers like Peter Milliken, who raises sheep on 37,500 acres near Hay, Australia. Some ranchers have water to sell because they are reducing the water they use. Mr. Milliken is installing a buried nine-mile pipe to replace an irrigation canal that lost up to 90 percent of its water to evaporation — and is planning for the day when he does not irrigate at all.

Sheep farmers have already worked out cooperative arrangements to send flocks to whatever fields have recently received rain, sometimes herding or trucking them long distances. Keeping an eye on a flock, Frank Cox, a drover, said recently, “We had to move the sheep because they were dying of starvation, and truck them down here.”

The drought is making rice harder to find. For instance, SunRice, the Australian rice trading and marketing giant owned by the country’s rice growers, began preparing to mothball the Deniliquin mill five months ago, when it noticed that Australian farmers were planting almost no rice. To make sure that it could continue supplying the domestic market, as well as export markets in Papua New Guinea, South Pacific island nations, Taiwan and the Middle East, SunRice stepped up rice purchases from other countries, said the chief executive, Gary Helou.

The SunRice purchases became one among the many factors that are making it harder for longtime rice importers elsewhere to find supplies.

Researchers are looking for solutions to global rice shortages — for example, rice that blooms earlier in the day, when it is cooler, to counter global warming. Rice plants that happen to bloom on hot days are less likely to produce grains of rice, a difficulty that is already starting to emerge in inland areas of China and other Asian countries as temperatures begin to climb.

“There will be problems very soon unless we have new varieties of rice in place,” said Reiner Wassmann, climate change coordinator at the International Rice Research Institute near Manila, a leader in developing higher-yielding strains of rice for nearly half a century.

The recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change carried an important caveat that could make the news even worse: the panel said that existing models for the effects of climate change on agriculture did not yet include newer findings that global warming could reduce rainfall and make it more variable.

Seeking Hardier Rice

Many agronomists contend that changes in the timing and amount of rain are more important for crops than temperature changes. Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the panel, said long-range climate forecasts for precipitation would require another 5 to 20 years of research.

In addition to drought, climate change could also produce more extreme weather, more pest and weed outbreaks, and changes in sea level as polar ice melts. Most of the world’s increase in rice production over the last quarter-century has occurred close to sea level, in the deltas of rivers like the Mekong in Vietnam, Chao Phraya in Thailand and Ganges-Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.

Yet the effects of climate change are not uniformly bad for rice. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, can actually help rice and other crops — although the effect dwindles or disappears if the plants face excessive heat, inadequate water, severe pollution or other stresses.

Still, the flexibility of farmers and ranchers here has persuaded some climate experts that, particularly in developed countries, the effects of climate change may be mitigated, if not completely avoided.

“I’m not as pessimistic as most people,” said Will Steffen, the director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at Australian National University. “Farmers are learning how to do things differently.”

Meanwhile, changes like the use of water to grow wine grapes instead of rice carry their own costs, as the developing world is discovering.

“Rice is a staple food,” said Graeme J. Haley, the general manager of the town of Deniliquin. “Chardonnay is not.”

Keith Bradsher reported from Australia last month and later added updated information. Rose Skelton in Fadiouth, Senegal, contributed reporting.


6) Challenges Remain for Lethal Injection
April 17, 2008

Executions in Texas, Alabama and other Southern states with large death rows are likely to resume shortly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday upholding Kentucky’s method of putting condemned prisoners to death.

But the fractured decision may actually slow executions elsewhere, legal experts said, as lawyers for death row inmates undertake fresh challenges based on its newly announced legal standards.

“The decision will have the effect of widening the divide between executing states and symbolic states, states that have the death penalty on the books but rarely carry out executions,” said Jordan M. Steiker, a law professor at the University of Texas.

George H. Kendall, a lawyer with Holland & Knight in New York who is an authority on capital litigation, said the effect of the Kentucky decision, Baze v. Rees, “is going to vary greatly.”

“I bet you by this time next week there will be execution dates in Texas and Alabama,” Mr. Kendall said. “But nothing is going to happen very quickly in California at all.”

Supporters of the death penalty welcomed the decision, though they suggested that it could have been more definitive.

“It’s true that they didn’t completely slam the door and lock it,” said Kent Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which advocates strong criminal penalties. “But I expect that the de facto moratorium will end this year, and in most states executions will resume.”

Opponents of the death penalty said the decision was little more than a road map for more litigation. “I think it opens the door,” said Elisabeth A. Semel, the director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley.

Lawyers representing death row inmates said the plurality opinion presented them two challenges. One is to distinguish their state’s procedures from that used in Kentucky. The other is to overcome the high evidentiary bar Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. set for all challenges to methods of execution.

In that plurality opinion, the chief justice said states with lethal injection protocols “substantially similar” to that used in Kentucky would be immune from challenges under the court’s new standard, which requires death row inmates to prove not only a demonstrated risk of severe pain but also that the risk is substantial when compared with available alternatives.

“Substantially similar?” said Deborah W. Denno, a law professor at Fordham University whose work was cited by the court. “I’m not sure what that is or what that would constitute.”

Thirty-five states and the federal government use lethal injections in executions, most if not all of them relying on a combination of three chemicals: a sedative, a paralyzing agent and a drug that stops the heart. If the chemicals are administered properly, all concerned agree, they produce a humane death. If the first is administered improperly, the second and third chemicals can give rise to suffocation and intense pain.

Relatively little is known about Kentucky’s procedures for administering the chemicals, Professor Denno said, adding that other states had made public much more evidence concerning the risks involved.

Justices on the court’s left and right wings said Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion was an invitation to a fresh round of litigation.

“The question of whether a similar three-drug protocol may be used in other states remains open, and may well be answered differently in a future case on the basis of a more complete record,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas said that “today’s decision is sure to engender more litigation,” because “we have left the states with nothing resembling a bright-line rule.”

Professor Semel said the fractured decision, the relatively sparse information available about practices in Kentucky and the new standard announced by the court would produce fertile ground for additional litigation, particularly in states where flaws in the administration of lethal injections were documented.

“If it looks like California or it looks like Missouri or it looks like Tennessee,” she said, “then it’s not a substantially similar protocol to the one in Kentucky.”

Indeed, Professor Denno said, “attorneys are in pretty good shape for further litigation.” In particular, she said, they may be able to demand that state corrections departments provide them more information about execution procedures.

Justice Stevens urged states to consider abandoning one of the three chemicals, the paralyzing drug that would leave an unsedated inmate conscious but unable to move, breathe or cry out.

But no state has so far abandoned the three-chemical combination. And it is not clear whether Baze will make changes more or less likely.

“The court is giving different messages,” Professor Denno said. On one hand, Chief Justice Roberts suggested that emulating the Kentucky protocol might provide states a safe harbor. On the other, Justice Stevens, though concurring in the court’s judgment, said the paralyzing drug was a litigation magnet.

States that have considered moving to a simpler protocol may have been waiting, some legal experts said, until Baze was decided, so as not to prejudice Kentucky’s chances before the court.

More than 40 stays have been issued in lethal-injection cases by various courts, 17 of them since the Supreme Court agreed in September to hear Baze, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Those stays will presumably now be dissolved.

In addition, officials in at least four states — Virginia, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma — moved on Wednesday to begin setting new execution dates after the informal moratorium of the last seven months.

But the litigation will not stop, Professor Steiker said.

“We will end up largely where we were before Baze,” he said. “It has set us on a course in which there will be continuing challenges, efforts to document botched executions and efforts to continue to explore alternative protocols.”


7) Palestinians Fight Israelis in Gaza; Toll Exceeds 21
April 17, 2008

JERUSALEM — At least 18 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including children, and 3 Israeli soldiers were reported killed in heavy fighting in Gaza on Wednesday, one of the bloodiest days in weeks.

The Israeli military said that it had hit armed militants and that it was checking the reports of civilian casualties.

Amid the violence, Israel resumed the pumping of emergency fuel supplies into Gaza after a weeklong suspension. The flow stopped on April 9 after Palestinian militant groups attacked the sole fuel depot on Israel’s border with Gaza, killing two Israeli civilians who worked there.

The latest violence began Tuesday night with an army operation in northern Gaza aimed at keeping people suspected of being militants away from the border fence, the Israeli military said. During the ensuing clashes, Palestinians opened fire on Israeli soldiers from a mosque used to store explosives, the military said. A soldier and several Palestinian militants were wounded.

As that operation ended Wednesday morning, Israeli forces on the border spotted a group of Palestinian gunmen approaching the fence south of the fuel depot at Nahal Oz and rushed to confront them, the military said. Three members of the Israeli force and four militants from Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, were killed.

Hamas said its fighters had ambushed the Israelis. “Raiding our areas will never be a picnic,” Abu Obaidah, a spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas, told reporters in Gaza.

Clashes and Israeli airstrikes extended into the afternoon. The deadliest occurred in central Gaza, where 14 Palestinians were killed, said Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, director of emergency medical services in Gaza. Dr. Hassanein said that all the dead were civilians, and that five were under 16 years old. Fadel Shana, 23, a cameraman for Reuters, was killed when a missile struck his clearly marked jeep in the area, Reuters’ Gaza bureau said.

Asked about the many civilian casualties, Maj. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli Army spokeswoman, said the military had struck an armed group. “It could be that civilians were nearby; it would not be the first time,” she said.

Major Leibovich said that if a cameraman had been killed, “we apologize for that.”

“It was not intentional,” she said, adding that journalists took a risk by operating in fighting zones.

More than 10 rockets and 26 mortar bombs were fired from Gaza toward Israel on Wednesday, the Israeli Army said, but they caused no injury.

A Hamas delegation left Gaza for Cairo on Wednesday afternoon, apparently for talks with Egyptian officials. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza said the delegation would also meet there on Thursday with former President Jimmy Carter, who has already angered Israeli and American officials with his insistence on meeting representatives of the group while visiting the region. The United States, Israel and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Egypt has been trying to broker understandings for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Israel has denied any contacts with Hamas, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently said rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza were “not a prescription for relaxation or compromise.”

David Baker, an Israeli spokesman, said Wednesday that Israel’s “defensive measures will continue unabated.”

The Israeli Defense Ministry had announced in advance that it would allow the resumption of essential fuel supplies to Gaza on Wednesday, but the violence delayed the delivery for a few hours. The Palestinians received fuel needed to run the Gaza power plant and cooking gas, but no gas for private cars.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting.


8) Desertion or a Break? An Iraqi Gives His Side
April 17, 2008

BAGHDAD — He was not deserting his men, the Iraqi Army captain insisted Wednesday. He had left his 70 soldiers in the midst of a battle in Sadr City the day before to take his long-overdue three-day break.

The captain, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said he intended to extend the break to five days, maybe longer. He had not been paid in two months and was overwhelmed by the problems of commanding his company, part of the 1st Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division. He was considering not going back to the fight in Sadr City.

Desertion by Iraqi soldiers has been a problem during the recent battles in Basra and Sadr City. The government dismissed 1,300 soldiers and police officers who deserted last month during fighting in Basra. On Tuesday, another company walked away from a crucial part of the front line in Sadr City, contending that they did not have adequate support.

Five years into the American effort to build a self-sustaining Iraqi Army, these failures to stand and fight have proven an embarrassing setback to American and Iraqi officials.

The captain who left his men on Tuesday said that even away from the battle, he was not able to escape his army burdens. He said his phone rang incessantly. His men had called from the front line saying that, once again, they had run out of ammunition and they pleaded for help. He called another unit in Sadr City and arranged for ammunition to be transferred.

Then his phone had rung again, he said. It was the Mahdi Army militia, the group his men were fighting, on the line.

“We know where you live,” they had told him.

“If they come to my house, they can kill my whole family,” he said.

On the phone they had read a roster of names of the men in his battalion. “I don’t even have access to that,” he said. “They could only have gotten it from my senior commanders.

“Our senior officials, they are thieves,” he said.

He was walking around with a bullet in the chamber of his pistol, ready to be attacked at any moment.

The American plan has been to let the Iraqis lead the fight, with United States soldiers in a support role. But the Iraqi captain said his men were no match for the more heavily armed militia: “The Mahdi Army, they have much better equipment than we do.”

He said most of his men had only two 30-round ammunition magazines each, magazines that sell for less than $12 on the streets of Baghdad.

“During the battle, my soldiers’ bullets are finished and they have to stop fighting,” he said. While the militia has mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, he said, “Three of my six machine guns are not working, and I have no mortars.”

Worst of all, he said, were the improvised explosive devices that lined the sidewalks and streets and that had peppered his men with shrapnel.

His company was below half-strength and shrinking by the day. It was down to 70 men from a normal roster of 150. Five had been wounded in the past week, others had been lent to another company. And then there was the desertion problem, made worse by the threatening phone calls from the Mahdi Army to his men.

“Most of my soldiers have family inside Sadr City,” he said. “Their tribes and cousins and relatives are there. They can’t fight in Sadr City.”

Asked about the company that had deserted on Tuesday, he was sympathetic.

“That commander is accusing that company of being deserters,” he said. “But he’s not there in the fight. My company, too, we were alone, surrounded and fighting for three hours on Monday night. No one came to help us. My men are dispirited. Their mood is very down. I try to praise them, to tell them they are doing well, to encourage them.”

As much as he did not want to leave his men, he was not sure he would return to them.

“It is very hard; I’m thinking of resigning,” he said.

Hosham Hussein contributed reporting.


9) Immigration Sweep Ends in 280 Arrests at 5 Plants
April 17, 2008

More than 280 workers accused of being illegal immigrants were arrested Wednesday by federal agents in coordinated operations at five plants belonging to Pilgrim’s Pride, a major chicken-processing company, in the largest immigration roundup at a workplace this year.

Justice Department officials said they would bring criminal identity theft charges against many of those arrested.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents entered the plants after workers arrived for the morning shift, surprising the employees but not company managers, Pilgrim’s Pride executives said.

“It wasn’t a raid, in the sense that we were working with the government to help them apprehend the people,” said Ray Atkinson, a spokesman for Pilgrim’s Pride, which is based in Pittsburg, Tex. He said no charges had been brought against the company or its managers for hiring illegal immigrants. Justice officials said the company cooperated fully with the arrests.

Immigration officials said that more than 100 workers were arrested at each of two plants in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Moorefield, W.Va. Arrests were also made at plants in Mount Pleasant, Tex.; Live Oak, Fla.; and Batesville, Ark. The workers arrested were about 3 percent of the 9,400 employees at the five Pilgrim’s Pride plants, Mr. Atkinson said.

The United States attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, John L. Ratcliffe, said some arrests were based on indictments returned April 1 by a grand jury in Tyler, Tex. They accuse immigrants of presenting real Social Security numbers belonging to other people when they were hired at the chicken plants.

The arrests are part of a strategy by immigration officials to bring tough federal charges against unauthorized immigrant workers caught in the common practice of buying or borrowing Social Security numbers to obtain work. The identity theft charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon conviction. Labor Department officials also worked on the investigation.

Five of 24 immigrants arrested in a Dec. 11 raid at the Mount Pleasant plant have pleaded guilty to identity theft, officials said. They said they had located several people whose identities had been used, including at least one person who had been arrested for a crime that was committed by an immigrant using that person’s identification.

Separately on Wednesday, agents arrested 20 people suspected of being illegal immigrants at the Shipley Donut Flour and Supply Company in Houston. In Buffalo, immigration officials said they arrested the owner, 10 managers and 45 workers at seven Mexican restaurants in four states. The managers were accused of importing illegal immigrants to work at the restaurants.


10) Mistrial Is Declared for 6 Men in Sears Tower Terror Case
“'Politics played too important a role in this prosecution,' Professor Winick said. 'We should follow our normal prosecution pattern, which is to gather the evidence.'"
April 17, 2008

MIAMI — A federal judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday in the case of six Miami men charged with plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago as part of an Islamic jihad.

It was the second mistrial in the federal case. Legal analysts called the outcome a significant defeat for the Bush administration, especially its publicizing of terrorism arrests.

“In a lot of these cases, the government has really oversold what it’s got,” said Jenny Martinez, an associate professor of law at Stanford who was involved in the Jose Padilla terrorism case. “They’ve held these huge press conferences at the beginning that set up these expectations that the government cannot fulfill.”

The approach, analysts said, often smacked of politics. In this case, when the seven men from the Liberty City area of Miami were arrested a few months before the 2006 elections, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales outlined the most sensational evidence at a news conference. He said the men had been taped promising to fight a “full ground war against the United States.”

The jurors faced far less clear-cut evidence. Testimony showed that a search by the F.B.I. of what it called the group’s headquarters did not find guns, explosives or blueprints for an attack.

Jurors also heard defense lawyers emphasize that the defendants made their most aggressive comments in response to questions or comments by a bureau agents posing as operatives of Al Qaeda and offering $50,000 to help the plot.

The most serious charge was conspiring to provide “material support” to a terrorist organization. Prosecutors tried to prove how intent the men were on attacking the United States by citing their loyalty oath to Al Qaeda.

The first trial ended in December with an acquittal for one of the seven, Lyglenson Lemorin, and a mistrial for the other six, Narseal Batiste, accused of being the ringleader; Patrick Abraham; Burson Augustine; Rotschild Augustine; Naudimar Herrera; and Stanley G. Phanor.

The second trial followed a similar path. Each side laid out many of the same arguments and again the jury deadlocked.

After 13 days of deliberations, Judge Joan A. Lenard of Federal District Court ordered a mistrial.

A statement from the office of the United States Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said a decision on a retrial would be announced at a hearing next Wednesday.

The jurors did not comment. Bruce J. Winick, a law professor at the University of Miami who followed the case, said the mistrial showed public skepticism of the pre-emptive terrorism-related arrests.

“Politics played too important a role in this prosecution,” Professor Winick said. “We should follow our normal prosecution pattern, which is to gather the evidence.”


11) Workers Get Fewer Hours, Deepening the Downturn
April 18, 2008

Not long ago, overtime was a regular feature at the Ludowici Roof Tile factory in eastern Ohio. Not anymore. With orders scarce and crates of unsold tiles piling up across the yard, the company has slowed production and cut working hours, sowing worry and thrift among its workers.

“We don’t just hop in the car and go shopping or get something to eat,” said Kim Baker, whose take-home pay at the plant has recently dropped to $450 a week, from more than $600. “You’ve got to watch everything. If we go to town now, it’s for a reason.”

Throughout the country, businesses grappling with declining fortunes are cutting hours for those on their payrolls. Self-employed people are suffering a drop in demand for their services, like music lessons, catering and management consulting. Growing numbers of people are settling for part-time work out of a failure to secure a full-time position.

The gradual erosion of the paycheck has become a stealth force driving the American economic downturn. Most of the attention has focused on the loss of jobs and the risk of layoffs. But the less-noticeable shrinking of hours and pay for millions of workers around the country appears to be a bigger contributor to the decline, which has already spread from housing and finance to other important areas of the economy.

While official unemployment has risen only modestly, to 5.1 percent, the reduction of wages and working hours for those still employed has become a primary cause of distress, pushing many more Americans into a downward spiral, economists say.

Moreover, this slippage is a critical indicator that the nation may well be on the verge of a recession, if not already in one.

Last month, the hours worked by those on American payrolls dropped, compared with six months earlier, according to an index maintained by the Labor Department. The last time the index moved into negative territory was February 2001, when the economy was on the doorstep of recession. A similar slide emerged in August 1990, one month into what proved an even more severe downturn.

From March 2007 to March of this year, the average workweek reported in the private sector slipped slightly to 33.8 hours, from 33.9 hours, while overtime for manufacturing workers fell by a larger margin.

At the end of last month, more than 4.9 million people were working part time either because they could not find full-time jobs or because their companies had cut hours in the face of slack business, according to a Labor Department survey. That represented an increase of 400,000 since November.

And on Wednesday, the government reported that average earnings slipped in March after accounting for the rising costs of food and fuel — the sixth consecutive month that pay failed to keep pace with inflation.

As people bring home paychecks that do not go as far, they are forced to economize, eliminating demand for goods and services that once captured their dollars, spreading pain to providers like auto dealers and lawn care providers. They, too, must trim their outlays on pay, shrinking working hours more and furthering the slowdown

“It means spending slows going forward,” said Robert Barbera, chief economist at the trading and research firm ITG.

Paychecks are diminishing just as millions of Americans are finding their access to credit constricted as well. Borrowing against the value of real estate — a crucial artery of household finance in recent years — has been pared back as home prices have plummeted and as banks have tightened lending standards in the aftermath of the collapse of the housing bubble.

“At this point, those avenues are blocked,” said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute in Washington. “Consumption going forward is going to be in large part a good old-fashioned function of paychecks and incomes.”

Even before the rollback in working hours, pay was barely keeping up with the rising costs of gas and food. From February to September of last year, the average hourly earnings for workers in the private sector was still growing at a slightly faster clip than the pace of inflation, according to the Labor Department. But from November through March, as employers began to scale back in a variety of ways, wage growth fell below the pace of inflation, meaning that paychecks were effectively shrinking.

Now, work opportunities are themselves declining, as the downturn snuffs out business.

In the suburbs of Denver, Max Garcia was netting as much as $2,000 a month last year as a self-employed computer repairman, he said. As recently as November, he was still receiving three and four calls for help a week. But since early February, calls have dropped to one a week or fewer, he said.

“Everybody’s getting tighter,” he said — himself included. With his income cut in half, Mr. Garcia, a single father, no longer takes his two young daughters out for fast food, he said. For clothing, he now goes to secondhand stores instead of the mall. For amusement, he visits the park instead of the museum.

“We spend more time at home,” Mr. Garcia said. “We don’t drive anywhere we don’t have to.”

In Los Angeles, William Righi, a musician, bemoans the sudden difficulty of getting jazz and blues gigs at restaurants and parties. He gives fewer private singing lessons to high school students.

“Their parents don’t want to pay,” Mr. Righi sighed. “They don’t have the money to burn. In the last month, it’s really dropped off.”

With his income down, Mr. Righi has been putting off buying new musical instruments and sheet music. He has curtailed his traveling.

At a factory in Lancaster, Pa., Armstrong World Industries, which makes flooring products, cut production of vinyl sheets for two weeks in March in reaction to softening demand for its goods, the company said.

Management is now seeking to slow production further, said Joe Rumberger, president of the local branch of the United Steelworkers, which represents workers there.

Some of those sent home received temporary unemployment benefits, he said, securing government checks of about $520 a week in lieu of paychecks that reached $900.

“It hurts,” he said. “If you’re not working, unemployment checks only go so far.”

At many companies, management is hanging on to as many workers as it can, cutting hours to try to limit layoffs, while hoping that business improves.

As the construction business deteriorated rapidly last fall, so did demand for the ceramic tiles produced in New Lexington, Ohio, at the Ludowici factory. In November, the company began drastically cutting overtime for many workers. The following month it laid off several people. Last month, the factory resorted to layoffs, cutting the hourly work force to 81, from 93. It idled the kiln on weekends.

But even as sales fell, the company kept producing, building up stocks of tiles that it assumed it could sell eventually.

“We thought that would be a smart way to do it in order to keep people working,” said Derek Thomas, the plant manager. “The philosophy around here is we remain hopeful that things are going to pick up.”

But if fresh orders do not arrive soon, Mr. Thomas acknowledged that his hopes were likely to be dashed. In that case, he said, the company was facing further “head count reductions.”

With his overtime pay gone and faced with the ugly potential of a layoff from the job he has known for 14 years, Mr. Baker, the plant worker, is streamlining his spending every way he can.

This time of year, he would normally be planning a trip through Ohio in his camper. But he does not expect to take to the road anytime soon. “Not with the money flowing the way it is,” he said, “and the price of gas.”

To John E. Silvia, chief economist for Wachovia, the banking company based in Charlotte, N.C., Mr. Baker and his boss are representative of a national economy that is hunkered down and awaiting better while worrying about worse.

“You’ve got a lot of people sitting around now,” he said, “waiting and hoping for orders.”


12) Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger
April 18, 2008
Poverty in Haiti - Photos
In a garbage dump in Port-au-Prince, people recently scavenged for food.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.

Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments.

In Cairo, the military is being put to work baking bread as rising food prices threaten to become the spark that ignites wider anger at a repressive government. In Burkina Faso and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, food riots are breaking out as never before. In reasonably prosperous Malaysia, the ruling coalition was nearly ousted by voters who cited food and fuel price increases as their main concerns.

“It’s the worst crisis of its kind in more than 30 years,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, the economist and special adviser to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. “It’s a big deal and it’s obviously threatening a lot of governments. There are a number of governments on the ropes, and I think there’s more political fallout to come.”

Indeed, as it roils developing nations, the spike in commodity prices — the biggest since the Nixon administration — has pitted the globe’s poorer south against the relatively wealthy north, adding to demands for reform of rich nations’ farm and environmental policies. But experts say there are few quick fixes to a crisis tied to so many factors, from strong demand for food from emerging economies like China’s to rising oil prices to the diversion of food resources to make biofuels.

There are no scripts on how to handle the crisis, either. In Asia, governments are putting in place measures to limit hoarding of rice after some shoppers panicked at price increases and bought up everything they could.

Even in Thailand, which produces 10 million more tons of rice than it consumes and is the world’s largest rice exporter, supermarkets have placed signs limiting the amount of rice shoppers are allowed to purchase.

But there is also plenty of nervousness and confusion about how best to proceed and just how bad the impact may ultimately be, particularly as already strapped governments struggle to keep up their food subsidies.

‘Scandalous Storm’

“This is a perfect storm,” President Elías Antonio Saca of El Salvador said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Cancún, Mexico. “How long can we withstand the situation? We have to feed our people, and commodities are becoming scarce. This scandalous storm might become a hurricane that could upset not only our economies but also the stability of our countries.”

In Asia, if Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia steps down, which is looking increasingly likely amid postelection turmoil within his party, he may be that region’s first high- profile political casualty of fuel and food price inflation.

In Indonesia, fearing protests, the government recently revised its 2008 budget, increasing the amount it will spend on food subsidies by about $280 million.

“The biggest concern is food riots,” said H.S. Dillon, a former adviser to Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture. Referring to small but widespread protests touched off by a rise in soybean prices in January, he said, “It has happened in the past and can happen again.”

Last month in Senegal, one of Africa’s oldest and most stable democracies, police in riot gear beat and used tear gas against people protesting high food prices and later raided a television station that broadcast images of the event. Many Senegalese have expressed anger at President Abdoulaye Wade for spending lavishly on roads and five-star hotels for an Islamic summit meeting last month while many people are unable to afford rice or fish.

“Why are these riots happening?” asked Arif Husain, senior food security analyst at the World Food Program, which has issued urgent appeals for donations. “The human instinct is to survive, and people are going to do no matter what to survive. And if you’re hungry you get angry quicker.”

Leaders who ignore the rage do so at their own risk. President René Préval of Haiti appeared to taunt the populace as the chorus of complaints about la vie chère — the expensive life — grew. He said if Haitians could afford cellphones, which many do carry, they should be able to feed their families. “If there is a protest against the rising prices,” he said, “come get me at the palace and I will demonstrate with you.”

When they came, filled with rage and by the thousands, he huddled inside and his presidential guards, with United Nations peacekeeping troops, rebuffed them. Within days, opposition lawmakers had voted out Mr. Préval’s prime minister, Jacques-Édouard Alexis, forcing him to reconstitute his government. Fragile in even the best of times, Haiti’s population and politics are now both simmering.

“Why were we surprised?” asked Patrick Élie, a Haitian political activist who followed the food riots in Africa earlier in the year and feared they might come to Haiti. “When something is coming your way all the way from Burkina Faso you should see it coming. What we had was like a can of gasoline that the government left for someone to light a match to it.”

Dwindling Menus

The rising prices are altering menus, and not for the better. In India, people are scrimping on milk for their children. Daily bowls of dal are getting thinner, as a bag of lentils is stretched across a few more meals.

Maninder Chand, an auto-rickshaw driver in New Delhi, said his family had given up eating meat altogether for the last several weeks.

Another rickshaw driver, Ravinder Kumar Gupta, said his wife had stopped seasoning their daily lentils, their chief source of protein, with the usual onion and spices because the price of cooking oil was now out of reach. These days, they eat bowls of watery, tasteless dal, seasoned only with salt.

Down Cairo’s Hafziyah Street, peddlers selling food from behind wood carts bark out their prices. But few customers can afford their fish or chicken, which bake in the hot sun. Food prices have doubled in two months.

Ahmed Abul Gheit, 25, sat on a cheap, stained wooden chair by his own pile of rotting tomatoes. “We can’t even find food,” he said, looking over at his friend Sobhy Abdullah, 50. Then raising his hands toward the sky, as if in prayer, he said, “May God take the guy I have in mind.”

Mr. Abdullah nodded, knowing full well that the “guy” was President Hosni Mubarak.

The government’s ability to address the crisis is limited, however. It already spends more on subsidies, including gasoline and bread, than on education and health combined.

“If all the people rise, then the government will resolve this,” said Raisa Fikry, 50, whose husband receives a pension equal to about $83 a month, as she shopped for vegetables. “But everyone has to rise together. People get scared. But we will all have to rise together.”

It is the kind of talk that has prompted the government to treat its economic woes as a security threat, dispatching riot forces with a strict warning that anyone who takes to the streets will be dealt with harshly.

Niger does not need to be reminded that hungry citizens overthrow governments. The country’s first postcolonial president, Hamani Diori, was toppled amid allegations of rampant corruption in 1974 as millions starved during a drought.

More recently, in 2005, it was mass protests in Niamey, the Nigerien capital, that made the government sit up and take notice of that year’s food crisis, which was caused by a complex mix of poor rains, locust infestation and market manipulation by traders.

“As a result of that experience the government created a cabinet-level ministry to deal with the high cost of living,” said Moustapha Kadi, an activist who helped organize marches in 2005. “So when prices went up this year the government acted quickly to remove tariffs on rice, which everyone eats. That quick action has kept people from taking to the streets.”

The Poor Eat Mud

In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute.

“It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. “It makes your stomach quiet down.”

But the grumbling in Haiti these days is no longer confined to the stomach. It is now spray-painted on walls of the capital and shouted by demonstrators.

In recent days, Mr. Préval has patched together a response, using international aid money and price reductions by importers to cut the price of a sack of rice by about 15 percent. He has also trimmed the salaries of some top officials. But those are considered temporary measures.

Real solutions will take years. Haiti, its agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself. Outside investment is the key, although that requires stability, not the sort of widespread looting and violence that the Haitian food riots have fostered.

Meanwhile, most of the poorest of the poor suffer silently, too weak for activism or too busy raising the next generation of hungry. In the sprawling slum of Haiti’s Cité Soleil, Placide Simone, 29, offered one of her five offspring to a stranger. “Take one,” she said, cradling a listless baby and motioning toward four rail-thin toddlers, none of whom had eaten that day. “You pick. Just feed them.”

Reporting was contributed by Lydia Polgreen from Niamey, Niger, Michael Slackman from Cairo, Somini Sengupta from New Delhi, Thomas Fuller from Bangkok and Peter Gelling from Jakarta, Indonesia.


13) U.S. Begins Erecting Wall in Sadr City
April 18, 2008

BAGHDAD — Trying to stem the infiltration of militia fighters, American forces have begun to build a massive concrete wall that will partition Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital.

The construction, which began Tuesday night, is intended to turn the southern quarter of Sadr City near the international Green Zone into a protected enclave, secured by Iraqi and American forces, where the Iraqi government can undertake reconstruction efforts.

“You can’t really repair anything that is broken until you establish security,” said Lt. Col. Dan Barnett, commander of the First Squadron, Second Stryker Cavalry Regiment. “A wall that isolates those who would continue to attack the Iraqi Army and coalition forces can create security conditions that they can go in and rebuild.”

On Wednesday night, huge cranes slowly lifted heavy concrete blocks into place under a moonless sky. The barriers were implanted on Al Quds Street, a major thoroughfare that separates the Tharwa and Jamilla districts to the south from the heart of Sadr City to the north.

The avenue was quiet except for the whirring sound of the cranes and thud of the barriers as they touched the ground. Contractors operated the cranes, but American soldiers transported the barriers on trucks and directed their placement.

The team building the barrier was protected by M-1 tanks, Stryker vehicles and Apache attack helicopters. As the workers labored in silence, there was a burst of fire as an M-1 tank blasted its main gun at a small group of fighters to the west. An Apache helicopter fired a Hellfire missile at a militia team equipped with rocket-propelled grenades, again interrupting the night with a thunderous boom. A cloud of dark smoke was visible in the distance through the Stryker’s night-vision system.

Concrete barriers have been employed in other areas of Baghdad. As the barriers were being erected in other neighborhoods, some residents said they feared being isolated. But walls have often proved to be an effective tool in blunting insurgent attacks.

American and Iraqi forces here say they have been battling Iranian-backed groups and militia fighters who support Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric. Much of Sadr City has become a sanctuary for such militias. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s recent offensive in Basra led to an increase in rocket attacks on the Green Zone.

Many of the Shiite militias that the American and Iraqi forces have been battling in the Tharwa area of Sadr City in the past several weeks have been infiltrating from the north. Al Quds Street has become a porous demarcation line between the American- and Iraqi-protected area to the south and the militia-controlled area to the north.

The avenue has been filled with numerous roadside bombs that American teams in special heavily armored vehicles have sought to clear. The militias have stacked tires on the road and turned them into burning pyres to hamper the American infrared surveillance and targeting systems or to soften the concrete to make it easier to bury bombs.

With a sandstorm hampering reconnaissance drones and grounding helicopters, work on the barrier was suspended Thursday, but the military intends to resume work as the weather improves.

The swirling dust storm, which turned the sky into a gritty beige, proved to be a boon to the militias. Calculating that they would ground the Americans helicopters and interfere with the reconnaissance drones, militias assaulted the northernmost Iraqi Army positions.

Iraqi troops, who are manning strongholds hundreds of yards ahead of the American positions, reported that they had run desperately low on ammunition, according to tactical radio reports.

American commanders were eager to avoid a repeat of the setback Tuesday evening when one Iraqi company abandoned its position to the front of American forces. That area was reclaimed the next day by a different Iraqi unit, but the episode gave militias temporary control of a critical stretch of road and a fresh opportunity to plant roadside bombs.

The militias’ main effort on Thursday was focused on dislodging Iraqi forces from a police station. American advisers took up positions with the Iraqi unit.

As the fighting intensified and there were reports that militia fighters had closed to within 100 yards, Colonel Barnett moved tanks into position so they could rush to the Iraqis’ aid. Stryker vehicles also moved forward.

But two Iraqi T-72s and four other Iraqi armored vehicles arrived on the scene before the American tanks were needed. The Iraqi Army has rushed ammunition to Sadr City, including machine-gun rounds and rocket-propelled grenades to give its units more firepower and address complaints of shortages.

Three Iraqi soldiers were reported killed Thursday when a militia fighter sneaked up close enough to a position they were guarding to lob a grenade, American officers said. There was such a heavy volume of Iraqi Army fire, however, that American commanders were not able to determine the scale of the attacks and whether they were as severe as the Iraqi forces had reported.

While the American military hopes to turn the southern portion of Sadr City into a protected enclave so that reconstruction can proceed, there has been no indication that the Iraqi government has mounted such efforts in recent days.

During a joint patrol conducted by Iraqi Army soldiers and American troops from the First Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division on Tuesday, residents complained vociferously about stagnant pools of water, downed power lines and piles of garbage.

The Americans sought to persuade the Iraqis that they were just as eager for the Iraqi government to fix the infrastructure and restore water and electricity.

“We are not stopping governmental services from coming in here,” Lt. Matthew Schardt, the commander of First Platoon, Company B, sought to assure one distressed woman. “We want them to come in here.” The American military plans to hire 200 Sadr City residents to clean up trash for a 75-day period. So far, it has hired about 90, Colonel Barnett said. But the program is seen as a stopgap effort.


14) Nearly a Fifth of War Veterans Report Mental Disorders, a Private Study Finds
April 18, 2008

One in five service members who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, but little more than half of them have sought mental health treatment, according to an independent study of United States troops.

The service members and veterans who reported these symptoms represented about 19 percent of the 1.6 million service members who have deployed to war in the last five years, a figure consistent with the most recent findings by military researchers. A 2007 survey of combat Army soldiers who had been home for several months found that 17 percent of active-duty troops and 25 percent of reservists had screened positive for symptoms of stress disorder.

The study, released on Thursday by the RAND Corporation, reported that about 19 percent of the troops said they might have experienced a traumatic brain injury, usually the result of powerful roadside bombs, yet a majority of those troops had never been evaluated for such an injury.

The 500-page study is the first exhaustive, private analysis of the psychological and cognitive injuries suffered by service members. The study sought to determine the prevalence of these injuries, gaps in treatment and the costs of treating, or failing to treat, the conditions.

RAND researchers conducted a telephone survey from last August to January 2008 with 1,965 service members, reservists and veterans who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in the last five years. Some respondents had deployed more than once. The researchers also gathered data from focus groups. The survey was conducted in 24 communities with high concentrations of service members, reservists and veterans.

The Defense Department said that it was heartened that the data reflected its own findings on the prevalence of mental injuries, and that the study helped highlight the hurdles the military faces in helping veterans.

“We’re on a long journey, and we’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Col. Loree Sutton of the Army, head of the new Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Lisa H. Jaycox, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND and a co-author of the new study, “Invisible Wounds of War,” said the findings also served to underscore the barriers, some of them self-imposed, that troops face in getting help. War veterans say they are often reluctant to seek treatment, in part out of fear that their medical information will be used to derail their careers. Commanders typically have access to a service member’s military medical records.

“There is a perception that the record can be used against them,” Ms. Jaycox said. “That is hard to overcome given that the record is not confidential.”

Only 53 percent of service members and veterans who reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression sought treatment. Of those, about half got “minimally adequate treatment,” according to the study.

“Clearly, that’s a finding that concerns us,” Colonel Sutton said during a meeting with reporters.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is considering removing a question about a service member’s health care history from security clearance questionnaires, she said.

“We think that’s going to be a big step forward to help our service members understand that seeking care, in fact, is a sign of strength,” Colonel Sutton said.

A shortage of well-trained mental health workers in the military and the veterans’ health care system compounds the challenge.

The RAND study also estimated the two-year cost of treating service members who return from war with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. It put the figure at $6.2 billion, an amount that includes medical care, lost productivity and losses from suicide.

The better the treatment, the more that the nation saves, the study concluded.

“This is a crisis, and we can’t keep muddling around the edges,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonpartisan advocacy group. “We can pay for mental health care now or pay for the jail cells and cemeteries and alcohol and drug treatment programs later. Not to mention the moral obligation we have to these veterans.”


15) Strike Over Local Issues Idles a Key G.M. Plant
April 18, 2008

DETROIT — A strike by about 2,300 members of the United Automobile Workers union at a General Motors plant near Lansing has halted production of three popular vehicles that have been bright spots in an otherwise dismal market.

The strike, which began Thursday morning after talks broke down between G.M. and U.A.W. Local 602, is the first at the automaker over local contract negotiations in a decade.

It adds another plant to the list of nearly 30 G.M. operations that are closed or partly shut because of labor disputes. A seven-week-old strike at a G.M. parts supplier, American Axle and Manufacturing, is responsible for the other closings.

But while idling truck and sport utility vehicle plants has helped G.M. to reduce bloated inventories of slower-selling products without affecting sales, the new strike could start to hurt G.M. quickly. The plant where workers walked off their jobs Thursday opened in 2006 and assembles G.M.’s top three entries in the industry’s fastest-growing segment, known as crossovers: the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook.

The Enclave, in particular, has been a much-needed hit for G.M., attracting younger customers and gaining widespread recognition through its association with the professional golfer Tiger Woods.

March, when G.M.’s overall sales fell 13 percent, was the second-best month for the Enclave, which arrived at dealerships last spring.

“We felt that there was no effort being made to come up with an agreement that we could present to our membership,” the president of Local 602, Doug Rademacher, said. “This is the first local agreement for a brand-new assembly plant, so it is very imperative that we get respect for our membership. We produce the hottest thing on the market today. It’s time to respect that work force.”

G.M. has stayed out of the talks at the Detroit-based American Axle, but in this case, “we expect G.M. to move quickly to restore output and recoup any lost output,” two analysts, Mike Jackson and Joe Langley of the consulting firm CSM Worldwide, wrote in a report Thursday.

Negotiations are expected to resume Friday morning.

“We remain focused on reaching an agreement as soon as possible,” Dan Flores, a G.M. spokesman, said.

All U.A.W. members at G.M. factories went on strike for about 40 hours last fall before agreeing to a four-year national contract. Companywide wages and benefits are covered in that deal, but local chapters of the union also have individual pacts with G.M. governing work rules and plant operations.

Most G.M. locals have yet to sign new deals. Workers at a transmission factory near Detroit could go on strike as early as Friday.


16) Sticker Shock in the Organic Aisles
April 18, 2008

Shoppers have long been willing to pay a premium for organic food. But how much is too much?

Rising prices for organic groceries are prompting some consumers to question their devotion to food produced without pesticides, chemical fertilizers or antibiotics. In some parts of the country, a loaf of organic bread can cost $4.50, a pound of pasta has hit $3, and organic milk is closing in on $7 a gallon.

“The prices have gotten ridiculous,” said Brenda Czarnik, who was shopping recently at a food cooperative in St. Paul.

Food prices in general have been rising, but organic food lagged somewhat behind last year because of a temporary glut of organic milk and other factors. Some grocery chains adopted private-label organic products, which are cheaper than brand products, while others hesitated to raise already high organic prices.

In recent months, however, these factors have been giving way to cost pressures in the industry. On grocery shelves across the nation, sharp price increases are taking hold.

“It’s probably the most dynamic and volatile time I’ve seen in 25 years,” said Gary Hirshberg, chief executive of Stonyfield Farm, an organic dairy business. “It’s extremely difficult to predict where it’s going.”

Organic prices are rising for many of the same reasons affecting conventional food prices: higher fuel costs, rising demand and a tight supply of the grains needed for animal feed and bakery items. In fact, demand for organic wheat, soybeans and corn is so great that farmers are receiving unheard-of prices.

But people who have to buy organic grain, from bakers and pasta makers to chicken and dairy farmers, say they are struggling to maintain profit margins, even though shoppers are paying more. The price of organic animal feed is so high that some dairy farmers have abandoned organic farming methods and others are pushing retailers to raise prices more aggressively. Several organic manufacturers worry that sales may slow as consumers cut back.

Perry Abbenante, global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, said sales were strong and customer counts were up. He said it might be too soon to know how consumers would react to higher organic prices, particularly in dairy.

“Man, $6.99 for a gallon of milk is pushing it,” he said. “We have to be very careful about not pricing organics out of the market.”

Over all, grocery prices have increased about 5 percent over the last year, though some staples like conventional eggs jumped 30 percent and milk, 13 percent, according to the Consumer Price Index. That government index does not break out prices for organic food.

Organic manufacturers and retailers said prices began increasing last fall but were only now starting to spike significantly in some parts of the country. Organic milk prices declined slightly last year.

Eric Newman, vice president for sales at Organic Valley, a farmers’ cooperative that sells mostly dairy products, said a half gallon of milk cost $3.49, on average, in 2007 while a gallon cost about $6. He said he expected the average price of a half gallon to exceed $4 in the months to come, while a gallon could cost more than $7.

The average retail price for Eggland’s Best Organic eggs in 2007 ranged from $3.79 to $4.29, company officials said. So far this year, the range has risen to $4.59 to $4.99.

Organic food is typically 20 percent to 100 percent more expensive than a conventional counterpart; the gap has narrowed in recent years as discount retailers like Wal-Mart have offered organics and more private-label organic products have become available, according to the industry.

Americans spent $16.7 billion on organic food and beverages in 2006, a 126 percent increase in just five years, according to the Organic Trade Association, an industry trade group. Organic sales account for about 2.8 percent of food and beverage sales in the United States, the group says.

The United States had 4.1 million acres of organic farmland in 2005, triple the amount in 1997, according to the Department of Agriculture, which regulates the organic industry. But farmers and grain buyers say the growth of new organic acreage has slowed, falling short of rising demand and causing organic grain prices to soar.

That is partly because prices for conventional corn, soybeans and wheat are at or near records, so there is less incentive for farmers to switch to organic crops; making the switch requires a three-year transition and piles of paperwork.

“There has been no new surge of land going into organic,” said Lynn Clarkson, who buys organic grain as president of Clarkson Grain in central Illinois. “We are having to compete with this ethanol juggernaut,” he added, referring to the growing use of field corn for fuel.

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an environmental research organization, said conventional dairy and grain prices were so high that they were nearly rivaling prices that organic farmers receive. Organic farmers normally earn a hefty premium for raising livestock and crops without chemical fertilizer, pesticides or antibiotics.

“We may be seeing over the next few years a turnaround, where organic agriculture contracts in this country,” he said. The price of organic grain has also jumped because hundreds of dairy farmers rushed to complete their transition to organic production last year, before more stringent government regulations took effect. The influx created a temporary glut of organic milk, which suppressed prices last year, but also added to the demand — and the price — for organic animal feed. In addition, a drought last year in the Upper Midwest caused relatively poor yields for some organic crops.

Doug Hartkopf, a dairy farmer in Albion, Me., said the high feed costs forced him to stop farming organically in December.

“Instead of paying $3,000 a month, I was paying $7,000,” he said. “It was a very tough decision. It was something we had to do.”

In all, at least 25 dairy farmers in the Northeast have retired early or stopped farming organically in the last six months, said Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance. He predicted that the shifts would continue unless farmers received a price increase of about 25 percent from milk processors.

The high grain prices are squeezing more than just organic dairy farmers.

“In the last three months or four months, everyone along the chain in organic food is not making their margins,” said Bob Eberly, president of Eberly Poultry in Stevens, Pa. The cost of raising poultry has increased 16 percent in the last six months, but he said his prices had increased only 7 percent.

“In the next month or so, our customers are going to see a significant price increase,” he said. “We just have to do it.”

Some organic bakeries, meanwhile, say they, too, are struggling to pay for organic flour and grains.

Michael Girkout, president of the Alvarado Street Bakery in Petaluma, Calif., said the farmers who supply his organic grain refused to honor a two-year contract in November and demanded a steep price increase.

“They said they could not afford to sell it to us at the price they agreed to two years ago,” said Mr. Girkout, who said he had little choice but to comply given the limited supply. He raised his prices for a loaf of bread 17 percent last year, he said.

Of course, the rising price of organic feed has another side. While organic livestock farmers are struggling, farmers who grow organic grain are being paid more than ever.

Organic corn is selling for $10 a bushel, organic soybeans for about $20 a bushel, and organic wheat is priced as high as $22 a bushel, all of them at least double the price of two years ago, said Oren Holle, a grain farmer in Kansas and president of an organic farmers’ cooperative.

“It is unprecedented,” Mr. Holle said. “Nobody saw these kind of market prices coming.”

Even with those prices, though, people in the industry say fewer farmers are starting the arduous transition to organic production because they can get record prices for conventional grain. Droughts, a growing global middle class and rising demand for biofuels produced from crops are putting heavy pressure on the world’s food system, sending prices up everywhere.

In the organic industry, the question is how shoppers will react to rising prices. “It will not be at all unusual for a mom to say, ‘No matter what, I am going to buy organic milk, but you know what, I don’t need to buy the organic cold cereal because I don’t see the value in it as much,’ ” said Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group, a market research firm specializing in health and wellness research.

At the Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op in St. Paul, Shaun Hainey, 26, said he had quit smoking and cut back on drinking and “superfluous recreational spending, like going skiing.” But he and his wife, Cassandra Hainey, have not cut back on organic food.

“We don’t foresee a price level at which we’d stop shopping organic,” he said.

But Scott Cordes, a 33-year-old budget analyst for the city of St. Paul, has found the high prices hard to bear. He now buys conventional 1 percent milk for $4.09 rather than spending $6.99 on a gallon of organic milk. Still, he does not expect to forgo organic foods altogether.

“You have to weigh the type of food you want,” he said. “I’ll only go so far to save money.”

Christina Capecchi contributed reporting from St. Paul.


17) Professor in Deadlocked Terrorism Case Could Face a New Indictment
April 18, 2008

Sami al-Arian, a computer science professor imprisoned for more than five years after pleading guilty to a single terrorism-related charge when his trial deadlocked, is back in legal limbo this week. He faces either deportation or a new indictment that could extend his incarceration for years.

The Justice Department and some independent terrorism investigators have long accused Mr. Al-Arian of being the main North America organizer for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for some of the more deadly suicide bombings against Israeli targets and which the United States has designated a terrorist organization.

Mr. Al-Arian’s supporters, though, say that he is nothing more sinister than an outspoken Palestinian activist, and that the Justice Department has tried to exploit the post-Sept. 11 mood in the United States to punish him for that, using legal maneuvering to keep him behind bars.

“The government has shown a willingness to go to the most extreme lengths to prolong Mr. Al-Arian’s incarceration,” his defense lawyer, Jonathan Turley, said.

The treatment of Mr. Al-Arian, who taught at the University of South Florida, has drawn international condemnation, including a complaint in 2007 by Amnesty International that he has suffered a pattern of abuse in United States prisons.

Mr. Al-Arian maintains that a plea agreement he reached with the federal government in 2006, in which he accepted deportation in exchange for pleading guilty to one terrorism-related charge, included a verbal understanding that he would not have to testify in any other case. The government maintains that the plea agreement does not explicitly bar such testimony. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, upheld the government’s stance in January. The government has thrice sought to compel him to testify before a long-running grand jury in Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va.

If the government chooses to charge Mr. Al-Arian with criminal contempt for refusing to testify, his time in jail could be open-ended, Mr. Turley said. “It is an abuse of the grand jury system,” he said. “It is an effort to secure by abusive means what the government could not secure from a jury.”

A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, pointed to the 11th Circuit’s decision as affirming that the government’s stance is correct. Jim Rybicki, spokesman for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia, would not comment.

Mr. Al-Arian, 50, has been in jail since February 2003, somewhat longer than his 57-month sentence because of the wrestling over his grand jury testimony. The sentence expired last weekend, though, so he is now in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which would be in charge of his deportation should it occur.

He has been moved repeatedly from jail to jail, Mr. Turley said. A slight man, Mr. Al-Arian has been on a hunger strike since March 3 and has lost more than 30 pounds, he added. A Palestinian born in Kuwait, Mr. Al-Arian was a legal resident of the United States, but not a citizen. His trial is the subject of a documentary, “USA vs. Al-Arian,” that can be watched at

In February 2003, a 121-page indictment trumpeted by the United States attorney general, John Ashcroft, painted Mr. Al-Arian as a linchpin of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or P.I.J., funneling money, support and logistical advice to suicide bombers. But after a six-month trial in Federal District Court in Tampa, Fla., Mr. Al-Arian was acquitted on eight counts and the jury deadlocked on the remaining nine. The hung jury was considered a major embarrassment for the Bush administration by critics who saw it as another example of the administration’s overreaching on terrorism cases.

Rather than face another trial, defense lawyers said, Mr. Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one conspiracy count of helping individuals associated with P.I.J. on immigration and other court matters. The United States designated P.I.J. a terrorist organization in January 1995, and the activities to which he pleaded guilty occurred shortly after that.

In negotiating the plea agreement, his defense lawyers said, they explicitly removed standard language stating that Mr. Al-Arian agreed to testify against others.

“They made a deal, and that deal was that if he would enter this negotiation, it would end all business with the federal government, but they didn’t mean it,” said Linda Moreno, one of his lawyers in the Florida case.


18) Sadr City Fighters Lay Defenses Amid Latest Official Efforts at Calm
April 19, 2008

BAGHDAD — As the cleric Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army fighters squatted in the Sadr City district’s main highways on Friday, planting homemade bombs less than a mile from Iraqi and American troops, his political bloc offered on Friday to negotiate with the Iraqi government to end fighting in the area.

Posing as municipal workers in fluorescent orange and yellow vests, three militia members — one masked with a checkered head scarf — dug holes in one main thoroughfare while wary drivers skirted around them and loose wires trailed across the street every few yards. Nearby, some of the heaviest fighting in weeks broke out late Friday night.

The mixed messages, at once conciliatory and threatening, are a hallmark of the Sadr movement, which appears to be gearing up to confront the government both with bullets and at the ballot box in provincial elections this fall.

As thousands of Shiites gathered for Friday Prayer, United States and Iraqi troops continued to ring Sadr City, the east Baghdad neighborhood that is Mr. Sadr’s Baghdad redoubt.

In recent days, United States forces have built high concrete blast walls to cordon off Sadr City’s government-controlled southern section from the rest of the sprawling district, which remains firmly under the control of the Mahdi Army militia. Within that Mahdi-controlled area, Falah Shanshal, a Sadrist member of Parliament, said Friday that the American and Iraqi government offensive in Sadr City was a “political war against the Sadrists.”

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki insists that the offensive is aimed at criminals and illegal militias, not at the Sadrists in particular. But Mr. Shanshal said Mr. Maliki was using the accusation of criminal activity in Sadr City as a pretext for “mass punishment” intended to discourage Mr. Sadr’s supporters from participating in the provincial elections.

One of the policies Mr. Shanshal singled out for criticism was the decision of the American military and the Iraqi government to introduce to Baghdad’s most populous district the blast walls, which have been used to seal off and divide other neighborhoods.

The walls are intended to stop Mahdi fighters from infiltrating areas from which mortars and rockets have been fired at the high-security Green Zone, which lies four miles to the west.

During a tour of several streets in the Mahdi-controlled area on Friday, it was clear that concrete blast walls erected elsewhere in Sadr City had been moved or knocked down. Some were covered with anti-American slogans.

“They are just building the walls to cut the city into pieces that are isolated from each other,” Mr. Shanshal said. “It has always been a united area.”

Sadr City is a huge neighborhood, measuring about two miles by three miles, in Baghdad’s poorest quarter. Overwhelmingly Shiite, it consists mainly of cheap, poor-quality houses, street markets, shops, mosques and government buildings, and it has filthy, slumlike outlying areas that appear to expand annually in a haphazard manner.

It is separated from the rest of the city by a canal, and Iraqi or American troops are now stationed in force at the crossing points. On some days they try, with varying degrees of success, to seal off the neighborhood. On others, including Friday, they allow vehicles to enter and leave on some roads.

Sadr City is now divided into three zones: a small area under American and Iraqi government control; a much larger one under the Mahdi Army militia, where many streets are calm and businesses and grassy recreation areas were open as usual; and in between, a fluid no man’s land where much of the fighting is centered and civilians are afraid to venture.

On Friday, one such front-line area, the main Jamila market, was a charred, half-deserted stretch of shuttered stores, garbage and abandoned vegetable trolleys. The smell of burning was everywhere. Gangs of young men loitered near doorways.

Only 50 yards from a traffic circle controlled by the Mahdi militia, two American armored vehicles — one of them an MRAP, for Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected — were visible; nervous Iraqi drivers edged between the sides.

The Mahdi Army militia, which has flaunted its weapons and two weeks ago could be seen sitting on street corners with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, is now largely invisible, if only to avoid missiles from American helicopter gunships and other aircraft.

Pro-Sadr graffiti could be seen everywhere, even on the walls of the Rafidain police station, where officers sat passively in the guardroom.

Sadrists had banned Western journalists from Sadr City but lifted the prohibition on Friday; they insisted, however, on accompanying them some of the time.

The fighting late Friday was in the American-held area; Reuters reported that 132 people had been admitted to Sadr City hospitals Friday evening.

At the Sadr Hospital in the neighborhood, a number of the patients had been injured by the fighting. A doctor had also been killed on her way to work, said Sihan Zaidan, 35, the chief nurse in the children’s ward.

Sadrist members of Parliament said that 398 people had been killed in Sadr City and 1,331 wounded, and that 91 houses had been destroyed in the past three weeks.

There was no way to verify the numbers, but there have been daily clashes in the area, and in hospital interviews it was clear that many women and children had been wounded, usually as they stood in their doorways, walked to the corner to buy bread or took a breath of fresh air on the roof.

Often it was unclear who was responsible for the shootings. While those who are Sadr supporters blamed either the Iraqi government troops or the American military, many people interviewed in a local hospital said they did not know who had shot them.

Upstairs in the children’s ward, Ali Mortada, 3, lay silently on his bed, looking at his aunt, who sat beside him. A bullet tore through his abdomen on Thursday evening as he stood with his father and uncle at the front gate of their house.

“We heard the sound of shooting, but it did not seem so close so we thought it wasn’t very dangerous,” said Khalid Zeda, 28, the uncle.

“We have gotten so accustomed to fighting that even when a mortar hits our neighbor’s house, we don’t notice,” Mr. Zeda said. “We are unemployed, so we cannot stand to be indoors all day — it is like a prison.”

To reach the hospital, Ali’s relatives had to pass through an American checkpoint. They feared they would be shot if they drove, said Mr. Zeda, who added, “We walked a long way, holding Ali in our arms and holding him up to show him to the American soldiers so that they would let us pass.”

Mr. Zeda said he did not know where the bullet had come from, but he said, “The Americans should leave, and of course the government is involved, too.”

Qais Mizher, Ali Hameed and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times contributed reporting.


19) As War’s Costs Rise, Congress Demands That Iraq Pay Larger Share
April 19, 2008

WASHINGTON — As Congress gears up to debate President Bush’s latest request for $108 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, lawmakers in both parties are pointing to record-high oil prices and demanding that Iraq pay a larger share of the costs, especially for reconstruction efforts.

In a letter to the defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, a group of 10 senators — six Democrats and four Republicans — wrote that Iraq was likely to see a “financial windfall” of about $56 billion from high oil prices and that it should be forced to spend that money.

“The time has come to end this blank-check policy and require the Iraqis to invest in their own future,” the senators wrote.

The rising clamor, particularly among Republican lawmakers who face tough re-election challenges, and new polls showing Americans more dissatisfied than ever with the war, are ratcheting up the pressure on the Bush administration ahead of what is likely to be a pitched battle over the war spending bill.

Congressional Democrats have said that they will not simply grant Mr. Bush’s request, but will once again seek to attach strings, including a requirement that Iraq pay a higher share of the costs. The Democrats also plan to add up to $30 billion in domestic spending that they say is needed to help the economy.

Some Democrats are also trying to approve an additional $70 billion to sustain military operations through the end of Mr. Bush’s term, a move that would draw greater attention to the high cost of the Iraq war.

Mr. Bush’s current request would finance the Iraq and Afghanistan operations through Sept. 30.

In a new line of attack against the administration, the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, has taken to stressing that the cost of the Iraq war is roughly $5,000 per second.

“The president has not been honest about the cost of the war from the beginning,” Mr. Reid said at a news conference this week. “$5,000 a second, $434 million every day. Seven days a week, no weekends off, no vacations. $12 billion every month.”

The White House says it shares the view that Iraq must shoulder more of the costs, and insists that Iraq is already beginning to do so. But the administration continues to dismiss criticism of its spending.

“Fighting terrorism and taking care of our veterans is not inexpensive,” the budget director, Jim Nussle, wrote in a letter this week. “We acknowledge that. However the economy also benefits when terrorist attacks are prevented and we doubt any critics of the level of spending take that into account.”

At a news conference on Thursday, 3 of the 10 senators who wrote to Mr. Gates — Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana; Susan Collins, Republican of Maine; and Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska — said they would press the administration to force Iraq to spend more of its budget surplus, projected at $60 billion, on reimbursing American expenses, including the cost of fuel.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, is considering pushing the debate into yet another arena next week, an aide said, perhaps by asking the State Department to determine if Iraq is using American tax dollars to hire lawyers and lobbyists to influence Congress and the administration.

Mr. Schumer does not know if that was the case, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the senator had not yet finalized his plans. But he said Mr. Schumer believed that it was inappropriate for Iraq to try to influence policy while American soldiers were in Iraq.

Since 2003, $22 million has been spent by political and government entities in Iraq on lawyers, lobbyists and other consultants who represent them in the United States, according to Justice Department records.

The Iraqi government has been the biggest spender: $15.6 million through late last year, with the Kurdistan Regional Government spending $6 million.

Mr. Schumer’s concerns mostly relate to two firms hired by the Iraqi government that helped defeat a proposal in Congress that would have allowed Americans to seize Iraqi assets to settle certain outstanding legal claims.

Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador in Washington, rejected Mr. Schumer’s criticism, saying that United States aid has never been used to pay its lobbying and law firms here.

“I can say categorically, that no such thing has happened,” he said Friday.




Coal Company Verdict in West Virginia Is Thrown Out
April 4, 2008
National Briefing | Mid-Atlantic
The State Supreme Court for a second time threw out a $50 million verdict against the coal company Massey Energy. The court decided to rehear the case after the publication of photographs of its chief justice on vacation in Monte Carlo with the company’s chief executive, Don L. Blankenship. The chief justice, Elliott E. Maynard, and a second justice disqualified themselves from the rehearing and were replaced by appeals court judges, but the vote was again 3-to-2 in favor of Massey. A third justice, Brent D. Benjamin, who was elected to the court with the help of more than $3 million from Mr. Blankenship, refused to recuse himself.

Utah: Miners’ Families File Lawsuit
National Briefing | Rockies
April 3, 2008
A lawsuit by the families of six men killed in August in a mine cave-in claims the collapse occurred because the mine’s owners were harvesting coal unsafely. The suit, filed in Salt Lake City, says the Murray Energy Corporation performed risky retreat mining last summer. It seeks unspecified damages. Three men trying to reach the miners died 10 days after the collapse in another cave-in at the Crandall Canyon Mine.

Regimens: Drug Samples Found to Affect Spending
Vital Signs
Having doctors distribute free samples of medicines may do exactly what drug companies hope for — encourage patients to spend more money on drugs.
A study in the April issue of Medical Care found that patients who never received free samples spent an average of $178 for six months of prescriptions. Those receiving samples spent $166 in the six months before they obtained free medicine, $244 when they received the handouts and $212 in the six months after that.
Researchers studied 5,709 patients, tracking medical histories and drug expenditures; 14 percent of the group received free samples. The study adjusted for prior and current health conditions, race, socioeconomic level and other variables.
The authors acknowledge that the study results could be partly explained by unmeasured illness in the group given samples.
The lead author, Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said although free samples might save some patients money, there were other ways to economize. “Using more generics, prescribing for three months’ supply rather than one month’s and stopping drugs that may no longer be needed can also save money,” Dr. Alexander said.
April 1, 2008

Rhode Island: Order to Combat Illegal Immigration
National Briefing | New England
Linking the presence of undocumented workers to the state’s financial woes, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri signed an executive order that includes steps to combat illegal immigration. The order requires state agencies and companies that do business with the state to verify the legal status of employees. It also directs the state police and prison and parole officials to work harder to find and deport illegal immigrants. The governor, a Republican, said that he understood illegal immigrants faced hardships, but that he did not want them in Rhode Island. Under his order, the state police will enter an agreement with federal immigration authorities permitting them access to specialized immigration databases.
March 29, 2008

North Carolina: Ministers Say Police Destroyed Records
National Briefing | South
Three ministers accused a Greensboro police officer of ordering officers to destroy about 50 boxes of police files related to the fatal shooting of five people at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in 1979. The Revs. Cardes Brown, Gregory Headen and Nelson Johnson said an active-duty officer told them he and at least three other officers were told to destroy the records in 2004 or 2005, shortly after a seven-member panel that had been convened to research the shootings requested police files related to them. The ministers did not identify the officer who provided the information. On Nov. 3, 1979, a heavily armed caravan of Klansman and Nazi Party members confronted the rally. Five marchers were killed and 10 were injured. Those charged were later acquitted in state and federal trials. The city and some Klan members were found liable for the deaths in civil litigation.
February 27, 2008

Gaza: Israeli Army Clears Itself in 21 Deaths
World Briefing | Middle East
The army said no legal action would be taken against military officials over an artillery strike in Beit Hanun in 2006 in which an errant shell hit residential buildings and killed 21 Palestinian civilians. An army investigation concluded that the shell was fired based on information that militants were intending to fire rockets from the area, an army statement said. The civilian deaths, it said, were “directly due to a rare and severe failure” in the artillery control system. The army’s military advocate general concluded that there was no need for further investigation.
February 27, 2008

World Briefing | Asia
Taiwan: Tons of Fish Wash Up on Beaches
About 45 tons of fish have washed up dead along 200 miles of beach on the outlying Penghu Islands after an unusual cold snap. News reports said 10 times as many dead fish were still in the water.
February 23, 2008

Zimbabwe: Inflation Breaks the Six-Figure Mark
World Briefing | Africa
The government’s statistics office said the inflation rate surged to a new record of 100,580 percent in January, up from 66,212 percent in December. Rangarirai Mberi, news editor of the independent Financial Gazette in Harare, said the state of the economy would feature prominently in next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections. “Numbers no longer shock people,” he said. Zimbabweans have learned to live in a hyperinflationary environment, he added, “but the question is, how long can this continue?”
February 21, 2008




Russell Means Speaking at the Transform Columbus Day Rally
"If voting could do anything it would be illegal!"


Stop the Termination or the Cherokee Nation


We Didn't Start the Fire

I Can't Take it No More

The Art of Mental Warfare

http://video. videoplay? docid=-905047436 2583451279




Port of Olympia Anti-Militarization Action Nov. 2007


"They have a new gimmick every year. They're going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: 'Look how much progress we're making. I'm in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I'm your spokesman, I'm your leader.' While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education.

"But how many sitting here right now feel that they could [laughs] truly identify with a struggle that was designed to eliminate the basic causes that create the conditions that exist? Not very many. They can jive, but when it comes to identifying yourself with a struggle that is not endorsed by the power structure, that is not acceptable, that the ground rules are not laid down by the society in which you live, in which you are struggling against, you can't identify with that, you step back.

"It's easy to become a satellite today without even realizing it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power of economic dollarism. You can cut out colonialism, imperialism and all other kind of ism, but it's hard for you to cut that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, you'll fold though."

—MALCOLM X, 1965


A little gem:
Michael Moore Faces Off With Stephen Colbert [VIDEO]


LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)


Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007


"We are far from that stage today in our era of the absolute
lie; the complete and totalitarian lie, spread by the
monopolies of press and radio to imprison social
consciousness." December 1936, "In 'Socialist' Norway,"
by Leon Trotsky: “Leon Trotsky in Norway” was transcribed
for the Internet by Per I. Matheson [References from
original translation removed]


Wealth Inequality Charts


MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate


"There comes a times when silence is betrayal."
--Martin Luther King


YouTube clip of Che before the UN in 1964


The Wealthiest Americans Ever
NYT Interactive chart
JULY 15, 2007


New Orleans After the Flood -- A Photo Gallery
This email was sent to you as a service, by Roland Sheppard.
Visit my website at:


[For some levity...Hans Groiner plays Monk]


Which country should we invade next?


My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup


Michael Moore- The Awful Truth


Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments


Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage


'My son lived a worthwhile life'
In April 2003, 21-year old Tom Hurndall was shot in the head
in Gaza by an Israeli soldier as he tried to save the lives of three
small children. Nine months later, he died, having never
recovered consciousness. Emine Saner talks to his mother
Jocelyn about her grief, her fight to make the Israeli army
accountable for his death and the book she has written
in his memory.
Monday March 26, 2007
The Guardian,,2042968,00.html


Introducing...................the Apple iRack


"A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind."
[A T-shirt worn by some teachers at Roosevelt High School
in L.A. as part of their campaign to rid the school of military
recruiters and JROTC--see Article in Full item number 4,]


"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban."
(A sign in Havana)
View sign at bottom of page at:
[Thanks to Norma Harrison for sending]


FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein


[The Scab
"After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad,
and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with
which he made a scab."
"A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul,
a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.
Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten
principles." "When a scab comes down the street,
men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and
the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out."
"No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there
is a pool of water to drown his carcass in,
or a rope long enough to hang his body with.
Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab.
For betraying his master, he had character enough
to hang himself." A scab has not.
"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.
Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of
a commision in the british army."
The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife,
his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled
promise from his employer.
Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor
to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country;
a scab is a traitor to his God, his country,
his family and his class."
Author --- Jack London (1876-1916)...Roland Sheppard]


Sand Creek Massacre
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On November 29, 1864, 700 Colorado troops savagely slaughtered
over 450 Cheyenne children, disabled, elders, and women in the
southeastern Colorado Territory under its protection. This act
became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. This film project
("The Sand Creek Massacre" documentary film project) is an
examination of an open wound in the souls of the Cheyenne
people as told from their perspective. This project chronicles
that horrific 19th century event and its affect on the 21st century
struggle for respectful coexistence between white and native
plains cultures in the United States of America.

Listed below are links on which you can click to get the latest news,
products, and view, free, "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" award-
winning documentary short. In order to create more native
awareness, particularly to save the roots of America's history,
please read the following:

Some people in America are trying to save the world. Bless
them. In the meantime, the roots of America are dying.
What happens to a plant when the roots die? The plant dies
according to my biology teacher in high school. American's
roots are its native people. Many of America's native people
are dying from drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, hunger,
and disease, which was introduced to them by the Caucasian
male. Tribal elders are dying. When they die, their oral
histories go with them. Our native's oral histories are the
essence of the roots of America, what took place before
our ancestors came over to America, what is taking place,
and what will be taking place. It is time we replenish
America's roots with native awareness, else America
continues its decaying, and ultimately, its death.

READY FOR PURCHASE! (pass the word about this powerful
educational tool to friends, family, schools, parents, teachers,
and other related people and organizations to contact
me (, 303-903-2103) for information
about how they can purchase the DVD and have me come
to their children's school to show the film and to interact
in a questions and answers discussion about the Sand
Creek Massacre.

Happy Holidays!

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC,+Don

(scroll down when you get there])

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